In your work for a water or wastewater utility provider, there will come times when you need to reach customers with important information. From alerts about service interruptions to boil water notices, these messages are essential parts of the communication between your organization and customers. Do you have a system in place to ensure you're reaching the right people in a timely manner?
Many water utilities are burdened with legacy technology, hurting their ability to get in contact with residents. These organizations have gone years without an upgrade, leaving them with inaccurate solutions that take a large amount of manual effort to use.
If that describes your office situation, there is a solution available, one that is relatively quick and easy to implement: interactive voice response (IVR). With a modern IVR solution in place, you and your customers can stay in closer contact than ever.
Getting beyond imprecise customer communications
When you have to reach every customer covered by your water services, how do you carry out that process? If your office is too dependent on legacy technology, the answer may involve methods that are imprecise, inefficient or both.
To send an important message such as a boil water notice, you could end up turning to local emergency services and using a "reverse 911" call. There are many flaws with this approach, however. The 911 dispatch system for your region may not correspond perfectly to your water customers. That means people who need the message aren't getting it, while households that aren't affected are receiving the call.
An internal database of customer phone numbers and email addresses could be another way to communicate emergencies. This is potentially more precise than using the 911 system, but more taxing for your staff. Keeping up with contact information updates can be a challenge, and producing the outgoing messages takes time and effort.
The work your personnel perform managing contact lists and creating communications, the less time they have for managing other duties around the office. Finding an efficient, accurate way to contact your water customers can therefore boost the output of your staff while also ensuring each message gets through.
This is where IVR comes in.
Gaining the power of modern IVR
Using an IVR solution to replace legacy communication methods provides an immediate boost to your water utility's day-to-day operations. You can begin implementing IVR by replacing inefficient legacy technology, then adding further capabilities that will deliver even more value.
Your team will feel the difference between IVR and traditional communication from the first boil water notice sent with the new system. The process of reaching the entire water customer base becomes a one-click action when you have IVR technology. The system, integrated with your customer relationship management (CRM) tool, automatically contacts each affected household.
It's important to note that, despite having "voice" in its name, IVR can communicate with your customers through their medium of choice. This may include an automated phone call, or involve email or text message. In an era when contact preferences are evolving fast, reaching your customers through these varied means is the surest way to get through.
Additional IVR advantages
While this level of one-click customer outreach is a powerful way to build accuracy and ease of use into your communications, it's also just one facet of what IVR can provide. The "response" part of IVR is another essential time-saving tool.
When customers call your office with questions or to perform simple transactions, the automated system can support several kinds of services without intervention from your personnel. This is especially useful during service interruptions, when customer calls are common and employees' time is at a premium.
An advanced, modern IVR solution can provide services including account status updates and even allow customers to pay their bills over the phone. Every activity you automate via IVR puts time back in employees' schedules and keeps the office running smoothly.
Part of an integrated technology suite
Once you start looking for ways to better serve your water customers with new technology integrations, you don't have to stop at IVR. Water utilities can employ the same types of outage management systems (OMS) used by electrical and fiber providers to monitor the status of infrastructure and ensure issues are resolved quickly and effectively.
Utility customer expectations are evolving today. Increased use of convenient, user-friendly technology in all facets of life has made it easier to communicate with companies of all kinds. By implementing IVR, you can keep pace with this trend and stay in constant contact with your customers.
When there's an immediate need to contact residents, such as a boil water notice or a service outage, you'll value the one-click convenience of outbound IVR communication. During everyday conditions, the system's inbound functionality will help callers get the information they need, with no action on your team's part. In either case, technology is the key to smoother water utility operations.