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: 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, 
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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

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