THE CHALLENGE: EFFECTIVELY LEVERAGING AMI
The newly purchased AMI data platform offered basic leak alert abilities, but the Park City water team had some challenges getting it to work effectively. Deployment of AMI was a considerable expenditure for the City, and the promise of leak detection was a significant reason for the investment. Understandably, customers became frustrated when these benefits were not quickly realized. When Jason Christensen joined the Park City team as Water Conservation IT Coordinator in 2012, leak alerts were not working as hoped for, and the utility was struggling to improve that process.
CONNECTING CUSTOMERS TO AMI DATA
For Jason, creating an online Customer Portal to better engage residents was a top priority. He was in the process of developing a plan to build a portal in-house when WaterSmart reached out to Park City. Jason agreed to listen to the pitch, but warned WaterSmart that the City already was moving towards its own solution. After hearing about the personalized Home Water Reports that WaterSmart provides in conjunction with a white-labeled Customer Portal and Utility Analytics System, Jason began to reconsider his initial plan. One of the challenges that he faced in creating his own site was finding ways to drive residents to log-on and use the resource. He believed that Home Water Reports could achieve this, while also providing a channel to communicate with residents about conservation and rebates. Jason had hope that “the Home Water Reports would be the thing that motivates customers to use the web portal on a regular basis.” Even better, WaterSmart offered a system to automatically email customers to notify them of possible leaks. Jason took a proposal to the City Council, which unanimously approved the partnership.
LAUNCHING LEAK ALERTS
“Working with WaterSmart is incredibly easy,” Jason says. “The integration and deployment process went off without a hitch.” Jason attributes this to the solid AMI and billing systems already in place, in addition to the quality of WaterSmart’s technology and client services team. Park City began successfully delivering its first Home Water Reports to 4,200 residential customers in May of 2014.
One of the greatest benefits Park City found in using the WaterSmart solution is the automatic leak alert capability. WaterSmart’s leak detection technology is able use the AMI interval data to recognize if there is an increase in consumption that might indicate a leak. Then WaterSmart’s unique software can disaggregate indoor water use, make an educated prediction of the location and size of the leak, and send a customized suggestion on how to fix it. This helps Park City Water staff save time in addition to helping residents catch their leaks faster. In the first three months of the program, Park City Water delivered over 150 leak alerts to residents, 70% of which were closed within ten days of the notification. “Our customers are really happy that we can now give them real-time leak detection,” Jason tells us, “and our City Council couldn’t be more supportive of the WaterSmart technology.”
KEEPING CUSTOMERS SMILING
Another, unexpected advantage of the solution is that “WaterSmart has had a halo effect on our utility as a whole,” Jason explains. Customers have a positive experience with the Portal and really appreciate the email leak alerts. They are also impressed with the user-interface, and excited that their City can share water consumption data with them so easily.
Currently, approximately 5,200 Park City customers have access to their AMI data via the WaterSmart Customer Portal. Through this service, offered for free to customers, households can view personalized tips for conserving water, discover and register for rebates, set water-saving goals and, of course, receive an immediate notification in the event of a leak. Sometimes, the knee-jerk response residents have when they see their water consumption on their first Home Water Report is indignant shock. When customers have this reaction, a Park City Water team member will walk them through the process of logging into the Customer Portal where they can view the data together. Jason noted that showing the data in the Customer Portal to help confused or upset customers is much easier than trying to explain the details over the phone.
ENGAGING THE COMMUNITY
WaterSmart has been able to work with Park City to deliver exactly what Jason was looking for. The Home Water Reports drive customers to check out their Customer Portal, where they can find all the information they need in an easy-to-understand, interactive format. And as the word is getting out about the program, interest in the technology is growing. For example, there are several vacation home communities in Park City, and Jason is now receiving requests from property managers for access to the Customer Portal so that they can get leak alerts for their rental properties.
On the utility side, Park City Water employees regularly log into the Utility Analytics Dashboard to track the Home Water Report deployment, how many customers are calling in about the program, and how many are registering to use the Customer Portal. Water Billing Coordinator Brenda Wilde uses the Dashboard to view all of the leak alerts in the city, and then calls customers who look like they might have a leak but have not yet logged in to the Portal. This is a great, proactive approach to catching leaks using both the real-time AMI data and WaterSmart’s leak detection software.
What makes Park City a success story is how the water department was able to confront the dual challenge of unattended leaks and low customer engagement with one comprehensive solution. Park City Water has been able to increase customer satisfaction by providing long-awaited leak alerts and an interactive Customer Portal to help residents understand and reduce their water usage. This success is thanks to the awesome work of Jason and his team, with the continued support of WaterSmart along the way.