For the past several years, the public’s understanding of the value of water in relation to the system, services, and resources a water utility provides has been one of the top five issues facing the water industry according to the American Water Works Association’s State of the Water Industry report. As a water tech company looking to provide solutions for our customers biggest challenges, we ask ourselves how data can add to water’s value proposition.
Data is information and information when used properly, can be an incredibly powerful tool for communication. It’s more than coding and algorithms. It creates an opportunity for feedback and feedback fosters perspective.
Keeping things in perspective is a lost art in today’s world, especially for businesses. As businesses evolve, earn more revenue, and increase staff sizes they grow further and further from their lifeblood—their customers. Technology is a fast-paced world, but for companies operating in the water industry, you quickly learn that cities operate at a different pace. But why?
It’s been said that water utilities are risk averse because they have to be right, every day, all the time. The product they produce directly impacts public health. They can’t afford to try every new idea under the sun when one might potentially kill someone. That’s not being dramatic, it’s being pragmatic. But again, why?
As a meter manufacturer and software company, we’re typically removed from the general public our customers interact with daily. However, a conversation with a water utility director at an industry conference offered some perspective. This director explained the stress meter technicians can experience when they have to shut off customers’ water service for nonpayment.
Sure, it’s a job and people have to pay their bills. However, in many cases cut off lists include elderly and low-income residents. For a person with any degree of empathy, cutting off water service to some of the most disadvantaged members of the community is going to make for a rough day at work. Sometimes customers are angry and we’ve heard about meter staff that had weapons pulled on them on cut-off day. They’ve almost all been verbally berated at one point or another.
As a company, we value the stories that come from our customers. They remind us of the true end user. They aren’t some data point on a graph or a number on a spreadsheet. They are real human beings. As a meter manufacturer and software company, we need to keep them in mind but also the utility staff on the ground, bridging the connection between infrastructure and end user every single day.
In this month of gratitude, we are grateful for these stories and we encourage our customers to share them with us. They make us better connected to our industry and our community which makes us better equipped to create solutions that add to the value proposition of water.