Water utility companies have a major responsibility of ensuring uninterrupted water supply, ultimate customer satisfaction and utmost process efficiencies. But all this ties back to an important factor – getting accurate meter readings and generating precise, timely bills. Gone are the days when the water utility officials would come to your home to record your bills, which could be erroneous, delayed or even inflated at times. Apart from causing stress and frustration to customers, such practices also lead to lots of inefficiencies and errors for the utility companies – errors which are extremely difficult to fix. Enter Automatic Meter Reading (AMR), a key strategy or component of a good water utility management software. It helps collect, centralize and analyze meter data through the use of connected technologies. The data gathering process is automated, real time and holistic to be useful to all parties involved – water utility companies, field staff and customers. Let us explore how they can be a life saver and a sure-shot way to increased revenues, enhanced efficiencies and improved customer satisfaction.
Ensuring efficient readings:
Water is an essential commodity and hence every household is literally an end-customer. The usual process of ensuring sufficient field staff to visit customers’ homes and record the readings can be cumbersome. Customers might not be home, or the staff could make mistakes in recording the figures. This could lead to delays in producing bills. Customers might end up paying the bills in a haphazard fashion. All this could be avoided with an AMR which can record the readings in an automated, planned manner ensuring a timely recording-payment schedule.
Collecting readings efficiently is one important task but the performance of the system over a period of time is also equally crucial. With leakages and thefts being reported regularly, manual checks are definitely not the answer to solve these issues. In the USA alone, around 1 trillion gallons of water can be wasted annually owing to leakages in households. Fixing these issues can save customers around 10% of their bills. The solution? Checking for leaks proactively with meter data management. Examining common leakage points, comparing bills and looking for fluctuations in usage figures are some possible workarounds. But truth be told, none of us actually get down to doing any of these tasks. The reason is simple – it is a time-consuming exercise. We often have other tasks to be performed and feel that such activities can be pushed to the subsequent month – which goes into an infinite loop. But with a water utility management software, companies can look for anomalies to provide relevant updates to customers. The customers can also compare bills over a period of time to look for major deviations and keep a track of their consumption patterns.
Handling exceptions and fixing issues:
Companies can correct data issues through simple workflows. Data issues can also be fixed through quality control algorithms equipped with verification and validation rules. Once an issue is detected and flagged, customers can raise requests to fix the leakages. Now the usual process of contacting water utility companies and waiting for days for them to respond and often missing them because of not being home can be forgotten. With a robust water utility management software embedded with meter data management, this process can be automated and made a lot more efficient. Field staff can be automatically routed and schedules can be presented graphically so everybody is on the same page. This also reduces the number of follow-ups and calls to customer care executives. Utility companies are also able to take stock of the situation, look at the number of issues fixed, get an idea about the pending requests, and understand how satisfied customers are.
Accurate, quality meter reading is the way forward:
On the back of well-connected meter data management, smart meters and AMR systems can ensure that the companies are able to record meters and bill customers accurately and efficiently. Often, leakages and water main breaks could lead to infrastructure issues. A water utility management software can provide data and insights regarding usage, pressure points, temperature etc. So, any changes or deviations can specifically be highlighted, and relevant alerts can be generated to take quick actions instead of waiting for revenue loss to be realized and capped at a later date. As data is presented to both companies and customers, the focus of water utility companies can shift to enabling continuous supply, better user interface and a pleasant experience (through upselling, cross selling etc.)
Such systems also help customers manage their usage in a better way, not just to ensure savings but also to be environmentally conscious and responsible. Carbon footprints can be reduced owing to savings in excess water usage. They pay for only what they use. Especially when it comes to places which are far off, such automatic readings are a saviour for both the companies and the customers. Companies which are able to achieve this can have a competitive advantage too. Billing errors owing to humans are eliminated and data is available in real time. Customers can make informed decisions regarding their usage and need not worry about checking bills regularly since the entire process will be automated.