August 29, 2023
Water Utility Communication: The Key to Customer Satisfaction
The Insider Blog / 4 min read
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August 29, 2023
The Insider Blog / 4 min read
According to new data from J.D. Power, strong customer communication strategies helped water utilities combat the negative effects of inflation in 2022. In fact, the 2023 U.S. Water Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study showed that while the average monthly water bill rose 6% over the year before, customer satisfaction with residential water utilities rose 3 points (on a 1,000-point scale).
“To maintain customer satisfaction, a water utility must communicate effectively with customers in the case of water quality issues, service interruptions or emergencies,” said Erica Hermann, software marketing manager at Badger Meter.
Outside of these examples, utilities that have the highest customer satisfaction scores communicate regularly with their ratepayers. By keeping customers informed and engaged, a water utility can build trust, manage expectations and minimize misunderstandings. Transparent communication also helps foster a positive public image and community support.
Located in southern British Columbia, the City of Kelowna serves of more than 150,000 residents via four distinct water providers. The Kelowna City Water Utility provides water to approximately 73,000 customers, just over half of the Kelowna population.
Using a cellular AMI system, the utility can view flow rate data in the BEACON® Software as a Service (SaaS) dashboard to manage water use and anticipate demand throughout the network. BEACON tags provide added flexibility to filter information related to locations and meters. These user-definable meter tags let city employees can dive deeper into their data, displaying water use for different regions, industries and more.
At the City of Kelowna, some of the tags representing segments of the billing landscape include agricultural versus residential customers and potable versus non-potable water use. User-definable tags allow the utility to view water meter data and accurately bill residents for the type of water use and associated rate by industry. This information can also be used to track total consumption in the network and adjust supply as needed.
“Data collected in BEACON provides valuable information on water demand trends. By observing usage for our top 30 accounts in the agricultural community, for example, we can predict instances where there may be increased demand on our water supply. The utility can then increase diversions to our reservoirs to meet the demand,” said Ed Hoppe, water quality and customer care manager with the City of Kelowna.
The utility’s water conservation efforts—monitoring for leaks, managing notifications for follow up or further action by utility personnel—are all managed within BEACON. Due to ongoing drought restrictions, the utility has also implemented “irrigation days,” limiting the days that customers can run lawn irrigation devices. Patterns presented in BEACON show accounts that are watering their lawns on the wrong irrigation days, signaling a follow-up with door tags or fines in some cases.
“Previously, we would send someone into the field each day to check that residents were not watering outside of their designated days,” Hoppe said. “Using BEACON, we found that most of those watering events occurred between midnight and 5 a.m., when we did not have someone on staff looking for this usage. Without this tool, we would not be aware of these violations.”
Timely and accurate billing information, along with helpful customer support, ensures smooth transactions and reduces customer frustration. At the City of Kelowna, the water utility billing department has successfully used BEACON-collected data to track anomalies in residential water use, alerting customers about potential leaks. Oftentimes, the department notifies customers before they receive a high water bill, which has resulted in more positive feelings toward the water utility.
“From the start of our meter replacement project, we knew we wanted a customer-facing portal, and BEACON is user-friendly, intuitive and customizable,” Hoppe said.
As communities across the country struggle to overcome the effects of drought, extreme weather and failing infrastructure, the role of water utilities cannot be understated. Communication is critical in order to build and maintain trust. Talk to an expert about how our smart water solutions can deliver reliable, accurate measurement data that increases consumer confidence.