Thoughts

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

Topics: water affordability

Customer Engagement and CAPs: Strategies for Water Affordability

August 28, 2018
| By Sophia Stetson
Affordability. It's a word that gets tossed around a lot as water bills continue to rise. Over the past 10 years the  median water bill has risen 75%  and is going to continue to climb as  our  national  wet  infrastructure requires  up to  $1 trillion in rehabilitation investment over the next 25 years . But with  nearly   1 5 % of the US  population  liv ing  below the poverty line  and spending  3% of their after-tax income on water ,  many  families are more vulnerable to bill increases and water shutoffs.  W ater utilities  have the  responsibility  of  maintaining public health by providing high quality, readily accessible water  and many  providers  have shown their commitment to their  low-income  customers through the implementation of  C ustomer  A ssistance  P rograms (CAPs) . In addition to CAPs, online customer engagement can reach low-income customers and help to ease their bill burden before they become delinquent.
 
Why CAPs?
By  taking advantage of  CAPs, 
...see more

Topics: communications

Watershed Moments: A framework for maximizing utility-customer interactions

March 27, 2018
| By Seth Engel

How much time do customers spend thinking about their water utility? According to consulting company Accenture’s consumer survey, if they are anything like the average customer, it’s around 8 minutes a year.

Most people just don’t spend that much time thinking about their water. How, then, can water utilities break through with a message that their customers will receive? By taking a page out of the marketer’s playbook and focusing on the customer journey, water utilities can maximize their interactions with their customers.

Years ago, smart marketers had the insight that marketing had become too disruptive to consumers. Consumers were being bombarded with message after message without regard to who they were or what stage of the buyer’s journey they were in. As a result, consumers tuned out these messages and the marketing was not impactful. Smart marketers began thinking harder about the messages they were putting out to

...see more

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

...see more

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

...see more

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

...see more

Topics: connecting the dots

Connecting Dots for Consumers

June 6, 2017
| By Jack Merrell

Only a quarter of consumers today feel that their utility is connecting the dots for them—that the utility is properly informing them about how much energy and water they use, and then correlating that use to both its environmental and economic impact on the consumer.

On the other side of the coin, less than half of utility executives feel that their organization is equipped to deal with the massive amounts of data* collected by today’s advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) and smart metering systems.

So, what is a water provider to do in the age of IoT, armed with an abundance of smart metering and sensor data but facing less-than-satisfied customer sentiment about how that information is used? How can we connect consumers with the information they crave?

Enter Itron and WaterSmart Software, two leading vendors in the water space who are committed to helping you make the most of all that data. And not just big data—but the right

...see more