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:
- Calling the customer directly, though this requires extensive resources and takes time away from other important customer service activities.
- Mailing information with the bill.
- Not communicating at all.
As much as we talk about digital communications, print remains a relevant, if not primary, communications channel for many utilities. Historically, the use of print communications has been limited. For instance, in the growing number of utilities that have invested in Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI), real time leak alerts are only deliverable to about half the customers (i.e. customers for whom the utility has an email or mobile phone number), unless the utility makes significant efforts to manually contact customers suspected of having a leak.
Indeed, some utilities manually monitor customer leaks, and will mail physical leak alert letters to their customers. However, this is time consuming for utility staff. One utility we talked to reported spending 1 full-time employee (FTE) day per week on mailing leak alerts to their customers.
In response to this frustration, WaterSmart recently launched print leak alerts. Instead of manually identifying customers with a leak and calling them, our platform automatically sends a personalized print leak alert to the customer's mailing address. Our network of on-demand printers across the country minimizes the time it takes for a customer to receive a leak alert thru the mail.
The customer is directed to our Customer Portal, where they can self-resolve their leak, without ever needing to make a call to the utility. Once a customer digitally “converts” by registering for the Portal and giving the utility their email address, they will continue to receive utility communications (such as leak alerts, bill alerts, and others) via the lower cost email channel.
Early testing of print leak alerts has been very promising. We see response rates as high as 20% of recipients signing up for the Customer Portal and providing their email to the utility within 30 days! By comparison, average response rates to utility mail hover around 5%, according to the Direct Marketing Association.[bctt tweet="Early testing of print leak alerts has been very promising, with response rates as high as 20% within 30 days!" username="getwatersmart"]
It’s worth noting that utilities are spending billions of dollars deploying AMI systems. By 2021, researchers project that water utilities will invest $8.3 billion in smart infrastructure. Yet, without a way to easily and reliably engage with every customer (not just those for whom the utility has an email address), the majority of utility customers will be missing out on the benefits of around-the-clock usage and real-time leak alerts that these new systems bring. Utilities that can bridge the digital divide with cutting edge customer engagement across all communications channels, especially print, will see benefits of faster digital conversion, improved customer satisfaction, and reduced service costs.
If you are interested in learning more about print leak alerts, click on the link below to see how many we estimate your utility might need: