Thoughts

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

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: utility customers

Lessons Learned from 100 Water Suppliers

October 25, 2018
| By Jeff Lipton
 
 
WaterSmart just reached a major milestone. We signed our 100th utility partner . It's only a number, and given that there are about 50,000 community water systems in the United States, this accomplishment is, pardon the pun, just a drop in the bucket. What is important is that the WaterSmart team has had the opportunity to learn an amazing amount from these hundred partnerships. We've worked with scores of utility staff and surveyed hundreds of thousands of end-use customers. What has come from all that experience and data are some pretty interesting insights.
Given this milestone, we thought it would be a good time to pause and reflect on our journey over the past nine years. We went back and aggregated a large set of survey data and partner feedback to summarize what we've learned on our journey from 1 to 100. We hope these compelling insights form the basis for best practices throughout the industry moving forward. 
 
First
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Topics: utility customers

The Utility Built for a Millennial

October 11, 2018
| By Ali Barsamian
 
According to population projections from the U.S. Census Bureau, m illennials are expected to become the nation's largest living adult generation by 2019. 37% of millennials were homeowners in 2015 and this number continues to rise, making them a significant fraction of a utilities' customer base. The m illennial generation is defined as those born between the years of 198 2 and 199 8. Th e impact this generation has had in t ransforming t he transportation, shopping , and television industries is already clear : J ust look to the widespread use of ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft, the massive success of Amazon or the demise of video rental stores. Understanding how millennials think and what they expect from customer service is key to a successful future for utilities , particularly as they face critical infrastructure investments which often necessitate publicly approved rate increases
 
G rowing up in the age of internet
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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

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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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Topics: customer satisfaction

3 Ways Water Utilities Can Increase Customer Satisfaction

May 23, 2017
| By Seth Engel

Over the next 20 years, the U.S. water utility industry needs to make trillion dollar infrastructure investments to maintain the service reliability and quality that citizens have come to expect. These investments will ultimately be financed and paid for by ratepayers, which presents a new challenge for water utilities trying to increase customer satisfaction and build support for these massive investments. The most successful water utilities recognize that asking customers to pay for large-scale investments is much easier when ratepayers understand and value the services they receive. Fortunately, there are proven, cost-effective solutions that water utilities can deploy to begin to build support immediately.

  1. Embrace multi-channel customer engagement

According to the Pew Center, 77% of Americans own a smartphone and 86% of Americans are on social media. We have rapidly become a mobile-first, digital society. In fact, over one

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