Thoughts

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

Topics: utility customers

The Tide Is Turning: A Digital Revolution in Water

January 3, 2019
| By Kevin Kern
 

Many of you have likely been hearing about the “Digital Transformation of Water Utilities.” Everything from Advanced Metering Infrastructure, to distribution network sensors, to modern customer communication systems are driving a wave of acceptance and adoption of new digital technologies throughout the water sector. 

Technology innovation is continuing to disrupt the water sector leading utilities to explore new ways of communicating and engaging with customers. In an environment of constrained resources, utility leaders are also evaluating new approaches to improve operational resilience, particularly in the Western United States where water stress is no longer the exception, but rather the rule.  These same water utilities need to find new ways to effectively communicate with the consumer base to enhance good will, improve customer satisfaction, and gain the political support needed to make ongoing investments in

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Topics: utility customers

Recent Lessons in Crisis Communications

November 29, 2018
| By Ed Archuleta
 
 
 
It is a crisp October morning. A WaterSmart colleague rolled out of bed late, grabbed his things, and rushed out the door without turning on the local news. He spent his commute listening to one of his favorite podcasts and checking texts and emails on his phone (but not while driving!) . When he got into the office, he headed to the kitchen, and as he began to fill a glass of water from the tap a coworker gasped and ask ed if he heard about the boil water notice . Immediately, concern set in and he began to wonder how he missed such a critical announcement. Unfortunately, this lack of public awareness is not an uncommon occurrence during a water quality incident. 
 
Many urban water u tilities are facing major challenges , including massive population growth, increasingly unpredictable weather patterns , and aging infrastructure. Austin Water is a world class utility organization operating under similar pressures and planning to
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Topics: customer communication

The Utility Communications Spectrum – Finding what works

September 14, 2016
| By Robin Gilthorpe

As water industry observers recognize, utilities have historically considered themselves silent providers of service. In the past, customers would only choose to communicate with their utility in the case of frustration or dissatisfaction: A high bill; water quality concerns; a service outage. Thus utilities would often measure customer satisfaction by a lack of interaction with their ratepayers.

Consequently, and unsurprisingly, utilities have minimized communication with stakeholders on the theory that it is better not to attract too much attention. In the relatively infrequent cases when they have chosen to communicate, they generally use one of two modes:

  1. Pure broadcast: Blanket communications, using a single set of content for every message sent. Think billboards, bill stuffers, door hangers, static web pages, and, more recently, social media channels such as Facebook or Twitter. These approaches are undirected and largely
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