Innovation across the water sector
Excelling in a changing regulatory environment, improving customer experience, and driving performance improvement
Using data to independently review rates and bills
Traditionally, utilities aren’t known for great customer service. But in this world of empowered customers, where hyper-connectivity amplifies people’s voices and choices, this needs to change. And New York American Water recognizes that necessity. After New York American Water experienced a backlash from introducing an inclining block rate structure that promotes sustainability, but saw some customers receiving higher bills, we worked with them to determine why their communications hadn’t prevented billing complaints. The result of this data analysis meant they could enhance processes for proactively managing customer complaints, ensuring customers received the best service.
served as an independent billing monitor to help improve customer satisfaction
provided data analytics and a report to identify root causes of bill complaints
facilitated key stakeholders in resolving key issues
Utilities are increasingly focused on sustainability, helping consumers and businesses understand, plan and reduce their usage of key resources. In New York, the chief water challenge is not drought, but ensuring ample long-term supply for its urban and suburban population.
New York American Water supplies 120,000 people on Long Island, New York. When the company introduced a new rate structure to reduce peak season water demand, customer satisfaction declined rapidly. Several customers received significantly higher bills that were greater than those served by public water authorities and municipal water districts in neighboring communities. In total, over 1,700 customers filed a complaint about bill increases, while many others complained informally through social media posts.
New York American Water is grateful for the thorough work and professionalism of the Independent Monitor, PA Consulting, as well as the oversight provided by the Staff of the Department of Public Service. New York American Water embraced the proposal to retain an Independent Monitor and its work has proven to be an important component of the Company’s efforts to learn, grow and continuously improve for the benefit of its customers.
Leaders at New York American Water realized there was a problem and reached an agreement with the New York State Department of Public Service to address billing issues. New York American Water temporarily discontinued its tier four rate, the highest rate in the new structure, saving customers $2.5 million, a bill that shareholders picked up.
While this commitment addressed some issues, State regulators felt other areas needed to be examined and filed legal action against New York American Water to investigate its billing practices. We were selected to serve as an Independent Monitor to complete key items in the resulting consent order and judgment.
We brought together a diverse team of experts to explore issues, run needed analyses and complete a Billing Independent Monitor Final Report and presentations to Commissioners. The goal was to analyze root-causes to identify actionable strategies that would prevent the recurrence of billing and communications issues.
The complex project included stakeholder interviews, document reviews, process observation, data analytics and modelling, and report production. After reviewing customer billing and usage data, meter test records, complaints, and more, we found that at times New York American Water had used long billing cycles, which increased bills, and needed to improve key processes. Most importantly, New York American Water needed a more robust approach to communicate the rationale and impacts of the new rate schedule to its customers. New York American Water implemented all our 23 recommendations, including reduction of the billing cycle from 24-35 to 28-32 days to help even out consumption variances. New York American Water then launched a robust communications program before reinstating the tier four rates.
To find out how you can improve customer service through data analytics, get in touch with us.