If you had to list the most critical factor to a successful AMI program launch from your customers’ perspective, what would it be? We hope your answer was a proactive communication plan. We’ve worked with countless customers who work tirelessly behind the scenes to put together an incredible AMI program that adds so much value to what the water department can offer their customers. We’ve also seen, in some cases, all of this hard work go down the drain when the program is met with mistrust and suspicion from customers.
You understand the need for and value of water technology. Your customers don’t. Don’t wait until the 11th hour to create a communication strategy for your AMI program. Here are some things to keep in mind as you plan your communication efforts.
Start with Why
Your job is to ensure the integrity and resilience of the infrastructure that supports the lives and livelihoods of every single person in your community. Make sure you start there and convey to your community that they come first.
Don’t Assume Anything
Don’t assume your customers have any working knowledge of the water industry at all. Some may even have the mindset of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” It’s your job, as the subject matter expert, to convey the value of adopting water technology. Don’t begin the story with the new technology either. Explain to them how their current meter works and how the new meters will work. Don’t let information gaps become fodder for rumors and misinformation on social media. Ensure you remain the primary trusted source for information related to water.
Make it Personal
Every city has its own culture. It may be formally stated in a city tagline or just something you see and hear at local events and venues. Tie your project to the culture of your city. If you’re a small town with big city benefits, tie technology to that idea and demonstrate the role your department and your project play in the local culture.
Remember your Audience
Your communication pieces are for your customers, not for you. Make sure the focus is on them. How does AMI benefit them? How will it help them have more control over their water usage and their family budget? How will it make their lives more convenient? How does investing in new technology improve the service they’ll receive? As industry thought leader, George Hawkins, says “change that improves customer service is the premise of the value proposition of water.”
Keep it Simple
Avoid using jargon and technical terms. Water technology can get too technical very fast. Write a draft and have a trusted source outside of water review it. Ask them if they understood the information. Have them explain it back to you to see if the message they received was the message you intended. Ask them if the tone is ok. Do you sound genuine? Do you sound arrogant? Remember not to fire hose your audience with information. You don’t have to give them everything at once. Break it up into different pieces of content that you release over time. Give them time to digest one piece of information before you introduce the next piece.
Keep in Touch
Let them know you value their feedback and give them a genuine way to ask questions and give you that feedback. Don’t send them down a transfer rabbit hole where they get passed along to multiple people. You will only create frustration that can quickly escalate to anger. Give them a direct number that gets them straight to the person who can help them.