Water utilities find that a caring approach leads to happy customers
Everybody wants happy customers, and water utilities are no exception. Water is a fundamental part of life and customers tend to have strong opinions about it. From rates and billing systems to quality and taste, water is a commodity that people care about – and many of them are not shy about sharing their opinions.
That’s why communication with customers is so important. They need to understand, for example, the reasons for rate changes, voluntary conservation measures and upcoming infrastructure projects, especially those that might cause disruptions to service.
While basic communication is important, it is not enough. Water utilities also must demonstrate they care for and value their customers. A campaign incorporating advertising, public relations and outreach can make a huge difference in the level of trust between a water utility and its customers. In this blog post, I’ll share three fresh approaches we have used at MNM to effectively engage water customers.
A Diverse Toolbox
Having conducted water campaigns throughout California and beyond, I have found our best results arise when we use a diverse toolbox of tactics to reach customers. Recent examples range from door-to-door canvassing to the installation of rain barrels at schools.
In recent water campaigns in California, we were tasked with improving customer perceptions of their water utility. We used research to develop strategic campaigns that made calculated use of social media and cost-effective online advertising. We also used traditional advertising tactics like print and mail – and some non-traditional ones like informational booths at community events and movie theater ads. In addition, we used inserts as a way to contact customers through regular billing cycles.
A Fresh Approach
Beyond traditional media channels, these campaigns incorporated creative tactics to make a real impact. Here are some fresh ways we have helped one of our water clients, California American Water, reach their customers:
Part of what made these campaigns so effective was the use of diverse tactics to share messages of caring. Research shows that a message doesn’t penetrate until at least seven exposures. Diverse tactics allow you to relay a consistent message to customers across multiple channels without boring them or being obnoxious.
Based on follow-up surveys with customers, these campaigns led to clear improvements in the reputation of the respective water utilities. Customers reported higher levels of trust and appreciation for the agency providing them with water.
After all, a cared-for customer is a happy customer. And that’s what we all want.
Kelly Murphy Lamkin has led water outreach campaigns throughout California as well as in nine other states. Her work in the water world has been recognized with awards from the national Public Relations Society of America and the International Association of Business Communicators.