*Spoiler Alert: This blog may contain spoilers.
When our friends at Master Meter, Inc. said, “Summer is coming. Can you make AMI and the customer portal fun?” I replied with, “Hold my…glass of cool tap water.”
If you’re like me, or the few million other people across the globe, you’ll be letting out a mournful sigh as the final season of the HBO series “Game of Thrones” comes to an end on May 19. You may be asking yourself, ‘What does a series about dragons, magic, and competing kingdoms have to do with AMI systems and customer portals?’ It depends on how creative you are. When you’re trying to communicate the value of water to an indifferent public, creativity is critical.
Summer is coming, and for many water utilities across the country, this means a significant jump in water demand. Whether spikes in usage affect your water supply or peaking causes system challenges, encouraging efficient water use in the summer months is vital to mitigating these adverse impacts. AMI systems and customer portals can play an important role in influencing customer behavior towards reducing water use. Your customers’ summers are filled with action movies and vacations. If you hope to get anyone’s attention, you may need to use a little strategic creativity.
Wasting Water? Shame! Shame!
While we don’t recommend inflicting the same level of punishment on your customers as the High Sparrow exacted upon Cersei—trust me, Google it—a little bit of shame goes a long way. Some cities use yard signs and door hangers to shame water wasters. Customer portals offer the same, but with a little more finesse. Most customer portals include the ability to show customers their water use compared to that of their neighbors and the average efficient water user. Research shows these kinds of social norms based efficiency programs are effective. Interestingly, the most significant changes in behavior occur when customers initially sign up for the portal. You can leverage the impacts the summer heat and subsequent high-water use have on water bills to reinforce this customer portal benefit.
Channel Your Inner Jon Snow: Gather the Houses to Fight the Common Enemy
The Night King can raise his arms and resurrect an army of dead zombies. When your customers raise their phones, they are bombarded by 5,000 messages a day, roughly. Most of those messages are just noise, aimless content, as they scroll across their social feeds and inboxes like zombies. These message zombies are the real enemy of engagement.
Jon Snow had to convince many kingdoms who hate each other to fight together against their common enemy—the undead. Your task is much simpler. You just have to strategically reach customers using the mix of tools available to you through multiple channels and mediums, called touchpoints. Check out Master Meter’s top ten customer touchpoints one-pager providing tips on how to effectively use each channel as a way to communicate the value of your AMI system and customer portal.
Be the Tyrion Lannister of Water Efficiency
Tyrion is the Hand of the Queen, her trusted advisor. As the water utility, you’re the subject-matter experts and, therefore, the Hand of the Customer. During summer, people are busy either on vacation or at work dreaming about vacation. They don’t have time to learn all the bells and whistles of your customer portal. Remind them! Are they going on vacation? Remind them to set up leak alerts, so they don’t come home to a disaster if the indoor plumbing or swimming pool goes awry. Does their lawn look like the Yard of the Month? Show them how to set up budget threshold alerts so that they don’t break the bank keeping up with the Joneses. You’re the expert. Share your knowledge.
Have Fun. Ride a Dragon.
Even Jon Snow took a break from the war of wars to ride a dragon with Daenerys. The treatment and delivery of safe, clean water is a serious matter, but we can still have fun in the process. Use summer as an excuse to have a little fun with your customers. Create a friendly 30-day competition between neighbors to see who can reduce their water use the most. Make the prize something worth their effort. Go big and offer tickets to the local water park or another local gem. For the introverts in the community, offer a cool giveaway to the individual who has the most significant water use reduction in a month. Encourage people to sign up for the customer portal to track their usage and keep score, and take this opportunity to point out the year-round benefits of the portal.
Summer is coming. Increased water demand can be a strain on water systems and supplies. Like a zombie dragon to a 700-foot wall of ice, you too have a powerful tool at your disposal. Promote the tools the customer portal provides and empower customers to mitigate the impact of high water demand. Communicate the benefits in a way that resonates with your audience by focusing on what’s in it for them. Summer is a time when most people want to tune out. Be creative, have a little fun, and use your toolbox of touchpoints to entice them to tune in.