Thoughts

A place for education, information, and insights about the water industry.

Topics: behavioral water efficiency

Water Meter Data Management - To Sink or SWIM (Part 1)

January 9, 2018
| By Jeff Lipton

(In part 1 of this two part post, we look at the history of meter data management systems and how they apply to the water industry):

Water Meter Data Management: To sink or SWIM? The role of a Meter Data Management System (MDMS) is not well defined within the water industry. Many products on the market claim to provide MDM functionality, but few people understand the value of what these systems offer. To understand how this confusion has come about and what can be done to address data management needs in the water industry, we need to first examine the evolution of the MDM.

A Brief History of the MDMS In the late 1990’s, the electric industry pioneered the concept of Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI), recognizing a need for more frequent and accurate meter data. However, this emerging meter information occasionally delivered anomalistic or missing data, and an MDMS was designed to manage and clean the incoming flood of data.

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Topics: communications

WaterSmart 2017 Year in Review

December 19, 2017
| By Kelly Coplin
2017 has been a big year at WaterSmart!  Over the past 12 months we expanded  our   customer engagement platform  to provide automated communication management  for  utilities’ most time-intensive  topics - leaks, high bills, and emergency notifications. We also extended our reach into utility bill presentment and electronic billing. Taken as a whole, these new product  capabilities   drive efficiencies and data transparency across the  entire  utility organization.

Here are some highlights of our product releases over the past 12 months.  We'll continue to build upon this momentum to reduce the cost to serve utility customers, protect utility revenue, and improve customer satisfaction in 2018!

Cutting Edge Text and Voice Communications

In 2017 we expanded  Group Messenger , our automated customer messaging  system , to include text and voice communication channels. Because many utilities have more phone numbers on file
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Topics: customer engagement

Cutting edge customer engagement through the mail?!

November 30, 2017
| By Seth Engel

Everything old is new again. Vinyl records are making a comeback, 80’s horror flick/pop culture tribute ‘Stranger Things’ is the number 1 show on Netflix, and snail mail is the hot new way for utilities to communicate with their customers.

Don’t believe it? Consider this: water utilities, on average, have email addresses for only one third of their customers (although as we demonstrated in a recent blog post, they probably have their mobile phone number).

But what about the two-thirds of customers that utilities can’t reach via email? Without being able to send timely emails, utilities have three options for communicating with their customers:

  1. Calling the customer directly, though this requires extensive resources and takes time away from other important customer service activities.
  2. Mailing information with the bill.
  3. Not communicating at all.

As much as we talk about digital communications, print remains a relevant, if not

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Topics: always-on customer

Defining Total Customer Engagement

November 14, 2017
| By Jeff Lipton

Elusive Definitions Total Customer Engagement is an amorphous concept that is difficult to define or quantify. Depending on the nature of a given business, engagement may be described using language such as touches, opens, responses, clicks, registrations, reach, shares, influence, views, or other nebulous terms. This language leaves organizations ill-equipped to define and measure the impact and benefits of communicating with customers in a wide-range of situations.

For the water industry in particular, a century of silent service has created an aversion to engaging with customers. Complaints from customers on high bills, boil notices, and service outages created the impression that less engagement with customers was preferable. Now that customers are always connected with digital devices and real-time notifications from nearly every common service provider (electric, mobile phone, internet, cable, etc.), the bar for more

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Topics: communications

The surprising numbers behind mobile device usage

November 7, 2017
| By Ella Kobelt

For most Americans, owning a mobile phone isn’t a want or a need, but rather a must. According to Pew Research, over 95% of Americans own a mobile phone, two thirds being a smartphone. In fact, even Pew has strayed from landline surveys and now targets mobile outreach. Communication happens on those 5” touch screens more and more frequently, with no signs of slowing down.

Water utilities are already recognizing the importance of being able to communicate with their customers via mobile phone, though many struggle to obtain these numbers. A recent finding by the WaterSmart Software development team discovered that many water utilities don’t realize the volume of mobile phone numbers they already store. While testing the phone number validation tool, a feature of our Group Messenger Module, the team ran a trial on a current utility customer’s database, expecting to find 25-30% of the contact numbers to be mobile. Instead, the tool

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Topics: affordability

The Best of WaterSide Chats

September 15, 2017
| By Ella Kobelt

Over the past several years, WaterSide Chats have evolved into a powerful channel through which WaterSmart communicates to the public. It’s our way of discussing developments in the water industry; we explore innovative technology, new types of thinking, or opportunities for advancement by way of customer service, payment performance, or a utility’s community perception. Our WaterSide Chats have taken many different forms. We’ve gathered industry leaders, water utility veterans, tech wizzes and policy pros, all with the hopes of leaving viewers with that “aha” moment, where a quote or a slide or a statistic may leave them thinking about the value of water and how technologies available today can be an empowering tool for the advancement of resiliency in the industry.

We’ve rounded up some of our favorite WaterSide Chats to reflect on themes that are still relevant. This is an opportunity to dig into innovation and thought leadership

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