Software and The Importance of Customer Service

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WaterSmart is a software-as-a-service (Saas) company and a vendor to over 50 water utilities. As a company that employs a lean and mighty team of 40, we also make use of dozens of software providers to help us build our product, run our sales & marketing, and take care of our employees. Often we are able to learn a lot from our vendors – we take particular note when we experience a seamless onboarding processes, smart pricing plans, or great user interfaces. A recent customer service experience with a vendor was also a learning experience – mostly in what not to do.

WaterSmart is nearing the size at which we could save money by switching to a different health benefit and payroll structure. We’ve been pretty happy with our current provider, but it is a good practice to regularly evaluate other options as we grow. In considering other vendors, only … see more

WaterSmart is now a Public Benefit Corporation!

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We are very pleased to announce that in March of 2016 WaterSmart Software officially became a Public Benefit Corporation (PBC). A Benefit Corporation is a new legal designation in 22 states so far that allows us to legally and officially recognize a purpose beyond maximizing shareholder value (as “normal” corporate status requires), by considering the public benefits of our work. In short, when we make decisions from now on we are now legally obligated to consider not just the impact on our finances and our shareholders, but also on the environment, our community, and our stakeholders including our employees, customers, and partners.

The legal designation of a Public Benefit Corporation (PBC) is a recent development – the State of Delaware (where WaterSmart and about half of all US companies are incorporated) made this designation available in 2013. The importance of this designation shouldn’t be understated and it’s not getting nearly … see more

What Water Utilities Can Learn From the Donald Trump Phenomenon

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No one can really say how long the Donald Trump presidential campaign will last. If you told most veteran journalists or political junkies a year ago that Trump would be a front-runner through the late summer and fall of 2015, few would believe you. But Donald Trump has certainly been successful (still polling #1 in most national polls as of the first week of December). Love him or hate him, his campaign illustrates many of our natural human biases and tendencies – either intentionally or unintentionally. Here are three prime examples that could be relevant to water utilities:

#1 – Shorter is better

Political campaigns, or at least the successful ones, are all about communication. Not all candidates communicate effectively or memorably, but Donald Trump is a clear outlier. His messages are big, simple, and memorable. While there may be other candidates who have more in-depth policy priorities or … see more

The Culture and Language of Drought Response

The current drought in California is making headlines, but it’s not the only state that has experienced severe drought in recent years. In the past decade states from Georgia to Kansas have also experienced mild to severe droughts.  The recent flooding and severe weather in Texas makes it easy to forget that until recently much of that state was in a drought that rivaled California’s. And despite recent rains many of Texas’ reservoirs are still low.

Unsurprisingly, given the vast cultural and political differences between different regions of our country, the way policy makers in different states have chosen to respond to these droughts – and the language they use to describe their actions – varies widely.  Restrictions, rationing, rebates, fines, tiered rates, voluntary reductions? A brief look at some of the key terms makes it clear why the average resident may be so confused on what’s expected … see more

The Measles, Behavioral Science, and Water Consumption

Many of you have likely followed the recent outbreak of measles, now reported by the CDC to include cases in fourteen states. The outbreak surfaces so many interesting issues –medical ethics, societal obligations, personal choice and political implications, but the most illuminating angle to understanding the outbreak might be behavioral science.

The reluctance of many parents today to have their children vaccinated is a textbook case of the Availability Heuristic. This mental shortcut was first proposed by behavioral scientists Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman in the 1970s. The basic idea is that when individuals gauge the probability that any event will occur, say for instance that their child’s health could be threatened by a measles outbreak, they are likely to be biased by the information that is most readily available to them. That is, most people will not necessarily seek outside data or statistics to come to a conclusion, … see more