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Water Utility Best Practices for Engaging Disadvantaged Communities

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ABSTRACT

Water utilities spend a disproportionate amount of time engaging with disadvantaged communities, often to address delinquent or unpaid bills and service disconnections that leave everyone worse off. Customer Assistance Programs are a good way to address affordability issues with these customers, and preexisting notions of disadvantaged customers being out of reach of electronic communications methods are, in fact, incorrect. While many low-income customers do not have traditional Internet services or access to personal computers, over 50% of these households do have a smartphone as a primary communication device with at least access to text messaging if not full web access.

Customer engagement and analytics platforms like WaterSmart can help utilities implement Customer Assistance Programs effectively, and substantially improve disadvantaged community engagement by utilizing the kinds of targeted communications that customer self-service platforms enable. By identifying key segments of users in need and targeting them with the right message at the right time, analyzing data, conducting public outreach campaigns, and tracking implementation, utilities can bring their Customer Assistance Programs to the next level. By employing these new data technologies, utilities can address issues of affordability and social equity while simultaneously driving down service costs, protecting revenue, and improving customer satisfaction.