8 Steps for Evaluating Customer Portal Solutions for Water Utilities

 

pdf icon   8 Steps for Evaluating Customer Portal Solutions for Water Utilities (PDF)

 

The Promise of Customer Access

There was only one problem…and it was a big one. Part of the justification for purchasing the fixed base system was that customers would have access to their own consumption information. In addition, customers would be able to see how much they’re spending during the billing cycle, be notified of suspected leaks, and see when they’re over-irrigating.

The meter data management system used to operate the wireless reading system, did not offer these capabilities. It was as if cable service had been installed throughout a community right up to the end of each customer’s driveway…but no connections made to the homes. The “last mile” would prove to be a show-stopper.

 

Customer Portal Software

The missing link is a new class of application called customer portal, consumer engagement, or Web presentment software. The basic function of a customer engagement solution is to provide a secure website where utility customers can login and get access to their usage data, billing information, and much more.

Because fixed base systems collect daily or hourly reads, this data can be integrated into the portal so customers can:

 

The customer portal benefits water providers by:

 

Making an Effective Software Selection

If your utility has installed a fixed base meter reading system or is considering implementing one, you’re probably evaluating customer portal solutions too. Solutions vary dramatically in price and capability so it’s worthwhile to define the elements that are important to your organization.

The following list of questions may help. Time spent planning your project will pay for itself many times over, and help you pick a system and a vendor you’ll be satisfied with well into the future.

 

1. Water Utility Questions

 

2. Questions for the Customer Portal Solution Provider

 

3. Data Integration

 

4. Security, Backups, and Performance

 

5. Project Management

 

6. Training and Support

 

7. Licensing & Pricing

 

8. Future Customizations

 

Live Product Demonstration

Make sure to see a live product demonstration. If the solution provider can show you another utility’s portal, that would be best. If the provider offers a “sandbox site,” get in there and play around.

 

Interviewing References

Calling the solution provider’s references is a must. Be sure to ask questions such as:

 

The Benefits Abound

Customer portal solutions offer a variety of long-term benefits. Not only do they help customers manage their water expenses and save money, your utility can proactively encourage water efficiency. Reducing the amount of time between when a customer suffers a leak and when he/she learns about it, is extremely beneficial for the provider and the customer.

By delivering a means for customers to answer their own questions, you can reduce call center traffic, lower internal costs, and provide better customer service. Customer engagement solutions will continue to evolve and deliver expanded capabilities. Ultimately, however, they can have a tremendous impact in boosting client satisfaction and enhancing the customer experience.