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How can utilities keep up with changing customer expectations?

An online bill simulator is helping one utility better understand customer expectations by letting residents make choices about which water initiatives and services they want to see reduced, kept or enhanced.

The simulator, developed by South East Water (SEW), provided an interactive experience that helped the utility better understand what services are most important to their customers, said South East Water Acting Customer General Manager Sharon Robinson.

“Customers have made it clear what they value most from their water utility. Now they can help us direct our focus based on their willingness to pay or save on their water bills,” she said.

The simulator adjusts bill amounts based individual selections the user makes, allowing customers to make informed choices based on what’s important and affordable for them.

The data obtained from the simulator will be used by SEW to plan investment and service delivery priorities, and the amount customers will pay through their bills to fund them.

The simulator will play a critical role in shaping SEW’s price submission for the 2018-23 period, Robinson said.

“The end result will be a price submission and ongoing plan that aligns to customer expectations while ensuring our water and sewerage services remain effective and affordable,” she said.

Some requests from customers included more detailed bills to see daily peaks and troughs to reduce water usage, and increased investment in water technology such as smart meters.

This comes after thousands of customers have already provided input into SEW’s 2018-23 price submission through surveys, focus groups, online forums and social media.

Consistent themes included investment in environmental initiatives, support of financially unstable customers, and response times for faults in systems, each of which are integrated into the simulator’s interface.

Ongoing input will continue to be sought here. South East Water will submit its 2018-23 price submission to the Essential Services Commission in September.