In December, we posted a blog reminding water utility leaders not to forget a strategic communication plan when launching an AMI program. Communication is critical to the success of implementation. Don’t let the benefits of AMI be the best-kept secret of your water utility. Promote these benefits to your customers and get them signed up and engaged.
Customers need to see AMI in action. They need to interact with it in a way that adds value to their every day. The customer portal paired with the infrastructure in the ground is how you connect the dots. It demonstrates the benefit to them in a tangible way that adds to the value proposition of the water department from their perspective.
So how do you get the word out? How do you get better customer engagement? Here are a few things to keep in mind.
Make It a Team Effort
Believe it or not, your customers aren’t seeking you out on a daily basis. You can’t rely on them proactively coming to your website or social media page. It’s best to meet them where they already are. One way to do this is by creating strategic partnerships with other businesses, organizations, or community leaders to help you amplify your message. Partner with a local hardware store and set up a booth to sign people up. Many already have regular DIY classes for the public. Reach out and see if you can have a presence at any irrigation or landscape related classes. Reach out to local master gardeners and see if they have any classes or if they can help cross- promote. Parks and recreation departments often do a fantastic job at engaging with the public. See if there are any opportunities to partner with existing classes or events on their schedule.
Most importantly, coordinate with the communication staff in your city. Even if you have dedicated education and communication staff in your water utility, it never hurts to keep everyone on the same page. The same theory applies to your customer service staff. Often, they are the first staff customers come in contact with, but the last to know about what’s coming down the pipeline. Keep them informed and aligned with your program goals. Don’t forget to get their input as they are the members of your staff who deal with customers the most on a day to day basis. Tap into that knowledge and experience.
Social media is a great tool, but its effectiveness rests heavily on a proactive strategic approach. You’re at the mercy of each platform’s algorithm, and it is a pay-to-play environment. However, social advertising is perfect for campaigns that have a specific goal such as driving more traffic to your website for customer portal sign-ups. The most straightforward platform to advertise on is Facebook. It allows you to create a very targeted audience for your ad. You can also create different ads for different audiences. Facebook ads are relatively cheap, especially when compared to print options. You can reach a pretty significant portion of your population with as little as $100 while gaining the power to pinpoint your audience. Involve your communication team as they are likely well versed in Facebook advertising.
The Original NextDoor
Whether you have 10, 50, 100, or 1000 employees, they all represent an opportunity to be ambassadors for your organization. Every great external communication strategy begins internally. Arm your employees with the message you want conveying. People today rely heavily on the information they get from other people, especially those they know personally. The next time someone bumps into their neighbor at the local coffee shop and that neighbor is your water utility employee, make sure that employee knows what’s going on. It may seem old fashioned, but it works and is the whole premise behind the social platform, NextDoor. There’s value in establishing a presence on NextDoor as well, but nothing beats face to face.
Don’t miss out on the opportunity to demonstrate the value of your AMI program to your customers. It will add to the value proposition of your department in the eyes of your customers. This support is necessary for the future when adopting new technologies or when making funding asks. The more you can demonstrate direct impact to your customer, the more likely you’ll get their attention and their buy-in.