Photo of the result of a burst 100 mm watermain

How Sydney Water is keeping their customers at the heart of what they do
P Ambrosoli
Publication Date (Web): 11 October 2016

Sydney Water supplies over 1.4 billion litres of drinking water to homes and businesses each day through a network of over 21,000 kilometres of watermains. That’s almost the distance from Sydney to Los Angeles and back. Both planned and unplanned water outages cause customer anxiety and inconvenience. 

Sydney Water needed to improve the visibility of information to better inform customers about what’s happening in their area and when disruptions will be rectified so they can plan around it.

A small project team was formed in October 2014 with representatives from each of the critical customer process touchpoints. This enabled us to gather collective business knowledge and capture the customer’s ‘voice’ to define scope requirements. 

An initial testing prototype was designed and built within weeks. It was launched internally in December 2014 to enable staff and contractors to provide feedback and improvement opportunities. We received an overwhelming amount of interest and it became apparent that although we were attempting to create something simple, we needed an enhanced design with more specific updates. Over 70 detailed business rules were created that generated over 400 combinations of possible scenarios that required mapping, data cleansing and testing to fit with our generic display icons.

When a customer reports a problem that requires a new work order, it’s captured and geo-located in ‘Hydra’  (a geographical information system) before being pushed to ‘Maximo’ (an asset data management system) and despatched to field crews. At this point, pending our business rules, we display icons on the ‘Water Service and Outage Map’ via our website to inform customers we’re aware of a problem.

As the job progresses, the crew updates the job status and outage details using tough books (field laptops). This information is transmitted back to Maximo in real time. The Water Service and Outage Map refreshes every 10 minutes so customers get the latest status very quickly. 

When the job is completed, a new icon appears. It remains visible for 24 hours to ensure customers can find out about the rectification work done.

On 1 April 2015, we launched the map on our Sydney Water website, but didn’t actively promote it to customers. However, the map quickly became a popular addition to the site. It has consistently ranked in the top 10 pages viewed since the launch and has attracted over 138,669 page views. Over 72% of these were unique views and visitors spent 4.57 minutes on the page on average. This is higher than the overall average across our site.

Screenshot showing the Map view display:

Screenshot showing the Map view display

Recognising that 44% of customers were viewing the map from mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, we introduced a ‘List View’ in August 2015. This makes it easier for customers to see information remotely using smartphones. 
Customers are becoming increasingly technologically savvy. To meet their needs and expectations, we need to continue to listen to customer feedback, analyse customer usage patterns and gain customer insights wherever possible. 

To try the map for yourself, visit

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