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Evolution of Customer Engagement Programs

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The three main themes communicated during this WaterSide Chat were as follows:
  1. Regular and targeted communication with customers is key in building trust and improving satisfaction, especially when approaching things like rate hikes, etc..
  2. Meet your customers where they are. This was discussed in regards to channel (print, tweets, emails, etc.), but also literally. Use information on customer location to target events etc., in areas they will be.
  3. You must measure your programs! Our panelists discussed the need to understand the effectiveness of engagement programs, especially when utilities experiment with new methods. If they can’t see the results easily, they can’t justify the investment.

Liesel Hans is the Water Conservation Manager at Fort Collins Utilities in Fort Collins, CO. She previously worked on electricity pricing and behavioral programs at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, CA. She first earned a PhD in economics at Colorado State University, focusing on how households respond to utility rate structures.  During that time she was also a member of the Fort Collins Utilities’ Water Board and taught a variety of undergraduate economics courses.

Melissa Elliott has a 20+ year public relations career spent almost entirely with water and wastewater utilities and municipalities. She oversees communication planning, stakeholder engagement and risk communication strategies for Raftelis in their Denver office. Most recently, Melissa directed the public affairs efforts at Denver Water, which included creating the public engagement strategy for massive infrastructure projects, developing a nationally recognized lead service line replacement program, and leading conservation outreach efforts through the innovative “Use Only What You Need” campaign. She has an M.S. in technical communication and a B.A. in journalism and is Accredited in Public Relations (APR) through the Public Relations Society of America. Highly active in the water industry nationally and regionally, Ms. Elliott is the chair of the American Water Works Association’s Public Affairs Council.

Nicole Wolfe has been working for the City of West Palm Beach for five years. For the first four and a half years, she was a laboratory technician at the City’s Waste Water Treatment Plant, analyzing the chemical and microbiological components of the City’s waste water, well water, and surface water from the surrounding watershed area. In September 2017, she joined the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability as a Program Coordinator, specializing in water and energy management. One of her main focus areas has been increasing our digital engagement with our water utility customers to help them understand their water usage and to promote water conservation.