Challenges around climate change including water scarcity and efficiency drivers are a reality nowadays, complicated by a huge array of factors including population growth.. Added to this are the complexities brought on by ageing water infrastructure, rising customer expectations, rapid digitalization, balancing corporate goals with environmental, social, and governance objectives, legislative, and regulatory changes, and post-pandemic recovery.
As we seek enduring solutions to these challenges, the keywords ‘collaboration’ and ‘engagement’ emerge. Over the years, the water sector has not always innovated at the pace required to meet the challenges it faces , with customers expecting sustainable stewardship and engaging tools and techniques.. Fast forward to today, that equation is changing. The industry is evolving and bringing customers and communities to the center of business operations.. Here are our thoughts on building a richer and deeper connection across the utility platform, along with areas and priorities that future-ready water providers should keep in mind.
Water providers need to ensure customers have a true end-to-end platform experience and the means to find actionable insight and empowered self-service. Water utilities can now devise platforms that support a spectrum of customer touchpoints – traditional channels such as email and physical bills, and digital ones like web, mobile and social media.
Customer-centricity does not mean just devoting more time to customers. It entails giving them more responsibilities, empowering them to find their own resolutions, driving their own cost savings, and contributing in their own way towards sustainability.
Smart technology, coupled with the growth of digitization and mobile, allows water providers to collect data from smart water meters, analyze the customer data through AI, ML, and analytics, derive data-driven insights, share the wealth of information with customers, and consistently drive water conscious mindsets and changes in consumption habits.
Utilities can enable consumers to view their consumption over time and compare their water usage to their peer groups. This will help make it easier for customers to understand the relationship between their consumption patterns and their bills, helping them realize cost savings and adopt more water-efficient habits.
Providing "always-on" access is the foundation for establishing effective customer engagement. Water utilities must provide 24/7 access to customers, even deploy smart chatbots and virtual agents to enrich customer service and encourage customers to self-manage their needs. It will also enable customers to react quickly to leaks and help avoid damages to their homes and businesses.
Not all customers and communities are at the same stage of awareness and engagement on water conservation. It is essential that water utilities realize this and drive targeted communications for different user segments. Utilities must also listen to these customer segments, encourage them to share their concerns and feedback, help them set their sustainability objectives, and provide them with tailor-made conservation initiatives.
Top-performing utilities go beyond basic provisions that provide transactional relationships. They offer personalized value-added services, content, and programs based on consumer insights that educate and inform their users. This includes water conservation tips, affordable payment plans, community engagement activities, rebates and incentives, proactive repairs, outage information, and more to drive waste reduction and attention to water sustainability.
By putting analytics to use, coupled with AI/ML capabilities, water utilities can identify patterns and problems in customer consumption data and water circulation life cycle to differentiate issues of possible leakage of water. Comprehensive waste-water reporting, and proactive leak alerts to customers early, can help save millions of gallons of water.
Water utilities can empower their workforce with tools and techniques to streamline field service operations for inspections. Powered by intelligent capabilities related to field issues and capabilities can help the field workforce solve water supply issues for the water consumers quickly, send real-time resolution updates to customers, and make real-time decisions in favor of the customers.
Successful customer and community engagement is an opportunity water providers cannot afford to miss. In our endeavor to explore solutions and tools, we are collaborating with Northumbrian Water Group (NWG) – to decode the future of engagement. At the NWG Innovation Festival this year, we have a brilliant gathering of people from across the globe coming together to solve environmental and societal challenges. Our challenge for the event seeks to address how utilities can work together to influence behavioral change in support of broader sustainability and green initiatives.
We will join forces to co-create and innovate real-world, applicable solutions and leverage meaningful collaborations with other water providers and stakeholders.