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To understand the true value of Customer Service in Water and Wastewater utilities, it's important to keep in mind that there are three parts of any business – production, distribution and retail. Customer Service is every utility's retail department. Retail means intense interaction with the customer, price setting, selling and buying. Retail is the place to either meet or miss customer expectations. Here is where a utility makes its first impression, the point at which the utility's very public image is shaped. Often depending on how a customer service representative handles a call, a ratepayer either establishes a habit of loyal support for the utility or grumbles about the service.

Like retail, direct contact with the customer characterizes Customer Service. And, like retail, it requires competency in many competitive business functions. CSD business processes include new service requests, call centers, billing, locates, maintenance and repairs, public notification, and public education – all means of delivering the goods.

This paper will describe the way Arlington's Water Utility Department Customer Service Optimization Project addressed the competitive abilities of their CSD, and built on their foundation of high performance to further improve their service to ratepayers. The project set out to (1) Assess nine core business processes of the CSD especially as they relate to: knowledge of customers, the status and use of technology and their cost of doing business; (2) Benchmark the most critical division performance measures with similar utilities; and (3) Create a Competitive Business Plan which includes recommendations for improvements based on best practices in the industry and applying it toward continued high performance and customer satisfaction.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2004-01-01

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