The Challenge with Planned Service Disruptions

When water users experience service disruptions, they report lower levels of customer satisfaction—with one surprising exception.

According to a water utility residential customer survey conducted by J.D. Power, if customers are proactively notified before service disruptions occur, they are often more satisfied than customers who don’t experience disruptions at all.

This surprising finding seems backwards, but the power of proactive communication is further confirmed in J.D. Power’s 2020 survey when customers who recalled four or more proactive communications from their utility provider reported the highest levels of satisfaction.

The lesson learned is that customers are typically forgiving when utilities are proactive and consistent in their communication.

Water line repair

What should you tell customers about a planned service disruption?

Every water provider has had to shut off water at some point and every water customer has likely wanted to know when that water would be back on.

As a basic rule of thumb, water providers should let customers know when a service disruption is going to take place, how long the work might take, why the service disruption is necessary or beneficial to the customer, and when applicable, how the customer can prepare for the disruption in advance.

Customers who recalled four or more proactive communications from their utility provider reported the highest levels of satisfaction

How should communication take place during a planned service disruption?

Many water providers rely almost solely on door hangers to keep customers informed about planned disruptions to water service. While initially effective, door hangers are time intensive to deliver and make it nearly impossible to provide timely updates to customers if things don’t go as planned. Learn more about alternatives for “getting your message out.”

Fortunately, we live in a day and age where utilities have access to technology (cough Yoppify) that makes reaching customers by mail, text, email, or phone call simple and easy.

What if things go wrong during a planned service disruption?

A mid-size water provider in Utah had done everything right to notify customers about an upcoming service disruption that would last 4-6 hours between 10 pm and 6 am. Unfortunately, on the night of the planned repair, crews soon discovered that a needed part for the project was the wrong size and would need to be fabricated in the field.

By morning, water service was not restored and calls from customers started flooding in, filling the provider’s voicemail to capacity. Unable to get any information about why water wasn’t available for morning showers and breakfast, customers took to Facebook to post about their frustrations.

Sample Communication Outline for Planned Service Disruptions:

Two weeks before

Send a postcard to customers who will be impacted by your planned service disruption. Let them know what your plan is and how long their service may be impacted.

One week before

Send a quick broadcast to remind impacted customers about the disruption (Use a text, email, or phone call for this).

During the disruption

Keep your customers updated of any changes to plans or timelines.

After the disruption

Send a message to let customers know water service has been restored. Include any information that customers may need to know about restoring water pressure or flushing lines.

Published On: March 16th, 2021 / Categories: Water / Tags: , /

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