When water utilities make necessary rate increases, customers inherently express frustration. While it may be impossible to eliminate negative customer feedback entirely, following these proactive steps can help your team minimize the volume of complaints that come your way.
why proactive explanations make a difference
Although the Public Service Commission (PSC) requires municipalities to notify customers exactly when and how rate increases will impact their bill prior to the implementation of the increase, they do not require you to explain the reasons behind the rate increase. However, if properly handled, providing an explanation to your customers can significantly decrease frustration amongst the members of your community.
how to make your case
Focus on key facts when justifying the increase. If the pipes in your system are 70 years old and deteriorating, and it’s going to cost 40 million dollars to replace them, state that directly to the public. Explain how failing to replace the pipes in a timely manner will inevitably impact the members of your community– a high risk of catastrophe that will result in a disruption of service and much higher expenses for everyone.
Repeat important facts behind the rate increase to your customers as often as necessary. Use every channel available to you – newspapers, social media, your website, fliers with your billings, and public meetings. Make sure that when people hear about the increase, they’re hearing it from your team.
Try adding a compelling spin to your increase explanation. For example, you could share photos of the current infrastructure and contrast them with images of your planned new construction while reminding your customers that to provide safe water, you need to spend more.
Use outside resources to supplement your customer outreach. This video from the Alliance for Water Efficiency explains how customers can conserve more but still end up with higher bills. Share this video on social media and your utility’s website to keep the public aware of the costs of fighting these improvements.
Applying the adage “The best defense is a good offense!” when it comes to rate increases will save you and your customers from unnecessary grief. Being proactive with your explanations may involve extra work upfront, but just like the increase itself, it will save valuable time and energy down the road.
For additional information, please contact an expert at R/M today.
About the Author
Edward F. Maxwell
Edward joined Ruekert & Mielke, Inc. (R/M) in 2017 as a financial analyst. Before joining R/M, he worked in private-sector finance, analyzing capital investments, forecasting expenses and revenue, and crafting department budgets. At R/M, he creates financial solutions for all clients, from municipalities to corporate businesses.