Thoughts

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

Topics: Did you know?

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: Editorial

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: Editorial

Deconstructing Payment Performance

November 16, 2016
| By Jeff Lipton

The Size of the Challenge Water remains relatively inexpensive. So if a handful of end-users can't, won't, or forget to pay their water bill, you wouldn't think it would have much impact on utility finances. It turns out that payment performance is actually a really big deal that costs the industry hundreds of millions of dollars each year. As of 2010 U.S. water utilities generated over $42 billion in annual revenue and given the pace of rate hikes over the past few years that number is now likely closer to $50B. Perhaps unsurprisingly, water utilities report being unable to collect between 0.5% and 1.5% of billed revenues each year. To make the math simple, let’s assume that 1% of $50B in annual revenue is uncollectible which equals losses of $500 million each year.

Yet it doesn’t end there. Many customers that are unable to pay their bill are subject to costly service disconnections that add to utility losses. It’s estimated that

...see more

Topics: Editorial

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
...see more