Large West Coast Public Water Utility | Water Utilities

Restoring customer trust after public complaints of overcharging

What We Did

After a large West Coast public water utility received several public complaints from customers about overcharges, it sought West Monroe’s expertise. We took a deep dive into the data and developed strategies to mitigate future high bill complaints, create operational efficiencies, and restore customer confidence.

10.3M

meter reads analyzed

3.5

year roadmap developed

8

key areas identified to prevent the number of high bill complaints

The Challenge

After a municipal water utility received many public complaints from overcharged customers, it needed to find out what happened – and course-correct.

To avoid future customer dissatisfaction and reputational impact, the utility partnered with West Monroe to:

  • Unlock operational and customer insights
  • Design a roadmap to regain customer confidence and improve operational efficiencies
  • Enable customer-centered services to operate at peak efficiency

An Undeniable Approach

Our team knew the answer demanded an understanding of water utilities – and the people, processes, systems, and data within them. We began:


  • Analyzing more than 10.3 million meter reads and 900 high bill complaints to identify aggregate water consumption trends
  • Observing personnel in the field and back office to uncover the operational practices contributing to high billing complaints
  • Leading an analysis of peer utilities to pinpoint best practices in the industry

Project Timeline

3
WEEKS
Intranet visioning and platform selection
2
MONTHS
Project kickoff and employee discovery sessions
9
MONTHS
Design and launch of Intranet
5
MONTHS
Iterative design and release on phase 3 Intranet launch

The Output

Our review found several contributing factors to customer complaints of higher bills:

  • 343 meters were misread in an isolated incident
  • 5 meters were installed with incorrect registers
  • A one-time extended bill period occurred increase the billing days from 60 to 70
  • A 6.9% rate increase recently took effect
  • Rainfall levels were lower than normal, and temperatures were higher than normal

Most of the high bill allegations were unsubstantiated. While this was a welcome discovery, it wasn’t a comprehensive solution toward restoring customer trust. So, we identified eight key areas that would prevent the number of high bill complaints:

  1. Improve water conservation messaging
  2. Streamline internal operations related to meter testing and billing
  3. Enhance meter reading controls to improve management oversight and quality control
  4. Revise bill presentment to provide more information regarding water usage trends
  5. Prioritize data-driven practices
  6. Accelerate AMI deployment to allow customers and the utility to have more granular water consumption data
  7. Focus on customer-centric approach
  8. Become a great place to work

With these strategies for success outlined, we built a timeline for implementation based on the utility’s top priorities and constraints which was subsequently implemented.

Returns You Can Measure

We set out to restore customer confidence for a public water utility and uncovered operational improvement opportunities along the way. The utility now has the potential to proactively address high bill allegations and increase customer satisfaction.

manhole road

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