Conservation Starts Conversations
In conjunction with US EPA’s Fix a Leak we want to share this article from Rural Water.
By Tim Roberston, CEO, SaveWaterSaveMoney
Last week, I came home from the supermarket with a big smile on my face. I’d managed to pick up a huge T-Bone steak at the end of its shelf life, saving me 30% off the original price. I thought myself lucky. A lady ahead of me had picked it up and then put it back in the fridge, choosing instead to place a similar-sized, full-price steak in her cart.
When you think about it, this lady and I had the same information, but chose to take different paths. Whatever her reasons, hers was to opt to pay the full price for pretty much the same product; mine was to opt for the discount because that suited my schedule (I had no plans that evening) and my pocket.
The NRWA Savings Engine acts in exactly the same way. It’s a simply designed, web-based app that asks customers a series of tailored questions about their current water and energy use. Using some clever algorithms, it then presents back the information via a dashboard personalized to each home. This includes a series of recommendations to help people reduce their consumption. Ranging from simple ways to prevent water being wasted which includes identifying a leaking toilet or reducing time spent in the shower.
Digitization can present challenges to those who aren’t sufficiently informed. We’ve heard from water suppliers all around the world that less water means less revenue. Business isn’t so clean cut. Managing costs is also a good way to generate greater profits. While customers come away with a feeling of empowerment – they can return to their personalized dashboard at any time to review their results or take and update on any actions they choose to take – Utilities receive a whole bunch of benefits, too.
For the very first time, and with zero integration with their own software or digital programs, state associations or systems can offer their customers a platform through which they can begin and maintain a dialogue with their customers. This can lead to cost-savings. For example, customer service can be improved as expectations are managed via the portal, reducing the volume and duration of unwanted calls through improved customer expectations and fewer bill surprises. Operations will benefit from cost reduction and streamlining by shifting customers to online billing. Marketing via customers’ personalized portals becomes low-cost and highly targeted. Think about it. Drought messaging will target where in the home the customer uses water the most. Leakage targets can be met in part by helping customers identify supply pipe leaks and offering simple, hassle-free remedies to fix them, and more importantly report back on those fixes.
Data Informs Utility Operations and Helps to Better Manage Demand
For the very first time, water utilities have access to Big Data. Easily translatable information about their customers at a highly granular level, including water and energy use by appliance and behavior, potential savings including energy, household occupancy, size of residence to enable ‘same home’ analysis. This information will empower utilities to tailor customer engagement to better manage demand, customer services, internal contact center costs, resources and expenditure, broadly referred to as the four pillars:
One or more of these pillars will likely resonate with each utility, depending on its own objectives and operational influences.
For utilities facing the continuous pressures of climate volatility, decreasing source water quality, and aging treatment and distribution infrastructure, the NRWA Savings Engine offers an easy way for customers to understand how their actions can directly impact the sustainability of their local water supplies. For those with increasing populations and demands on water supply, the NRWA Savings Engine allows utilities to maximize the embedded capacity in existing infrastructure by understanding how, when and why we use water. This in turn enables utilities to refine their water efficiency, leakage and educational strategies to effect water consumption demands while considering local, regional and national considerations.
Water utilities have limited channels through which to communicate to their customers. In times of adverse weather, for example drought or flooding, they tend to revert to local or state-wide mass media which carries broad messaging around general awareness aimed at all customers, but specifically at none. This approach is limited and doesn’t take account of individual water uses. For example, “Don’t use sprinklers” has little relevance to people who live in apartments; and “Take shorter showers” means nothing to people who have no idea how long is short.
With email addresses from those customers who opt-in to receive further communications (this is the only information the NRWA Savings Engine receives), and by providing customers with a platform to interact with their utility, the Savings Engine ensures efficiency of costs to serve, thereby minimizing rate impacts which would be passed on to customers.
The improved transparency the Savings Engine provides for both customers and water utilities will in turn lead to improved customer trust in their water utility and a higher value being placed on water. In our highly digitized and informed world, the NRWA Savings Engine is unique, providing people with information they don’t already have, hence their curiosity. But like everything else in the world of online solutions, the decision to act is left to us humans to take. That’s where the complexities begin.
I’ll be back in my supermarket again later this week. The discounted steak was good, but I’ll probably look for something else. If I find an offer, I may or may not take it. I guess it depends on my mood, do I want it, how long does it take to cook, am I busy that night, have I just been paid and so on. Just knowing discounted products allows me to feel in control.