Utility Benefits of Incorporating Customer Feedback

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Obtaining customer feedback through customer satisfaction surveys and analysis of this data provides useful information to the utility provider on fundamental customer needs and expectations. This presentation will discuss how American Water uses customer feedback to develop a clearer understanding of what is most important to drinking water and wastewater customers. Additionally it will review how American Water identifies and implements initiatives to address those needs.

Incorporating the voice of the customer into day-to-day operations is one of the ways utility managers can enhance stakeholder relationships, increase operating efficiency, optimize infrastructure investment, and leverage growth opportunities. Ultimately the integration of this information is an important element for long-term sustainability and financial viability.

American Water surveys approximately 6000 water/wastewater, residential customers across seventeen states. Customer feedback is collected through phone survey techniques. Survey questions poll customers for their response to image and service attributes. Question design includes both ranking questions as well as verbatim responses.

The overall objectives of American Water's customer survey effort are to:

Identify characteristics and behaviors most important to customers,

Determine American Water's performance toward these customer expectations by monitoring over time and comparing to local gas or electric service providers, and

Prioritize and implement best practices that reinforce strength areas or address areas for development.

Customer feedback data is analyzed from a variety of perspectives, specifically: overall satisfaction, image attributes, performance attributes, geographic location, service interaction, and a combination of one or more these characteristics. In addition, each completed survey is reviewed for extreme responses (positive or negative) as well as the verbatim comments to open ended questions to identify strength and opportunities areas relating to the specific customer as well as overall utility processes.

Through the systematic analysis of customer feedback, American Water has been able to successfully identify key characteristics valued by American Water's diverse water and wastewater service customer base. This has allowed American Water to identify dimensions that support fundamental expectations such as reliable service, taste/odor/clarity of drinking water, bill clarity. At the same time, the dimensions that contribute to an exceptional customer-utility relationship have been identified and include aspects such as: information on how to reduce their bill, professionalism of employees, community involvement, and information about maintenance and improvements.

Keywords: brand attributes; customer feedback; customer satisfaction; performance; service

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2175/193864710798285804

Publication date: January 1, 2010

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  • Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation is an archive of papers published in the proceedings of the annual Water Environment Federation® Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC® ) and specialty conferences held since the year 2000. These proceedings are not peer reviewed.

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