February 23, 2015
Communicating to Change Customer Behaviors
In our last Branding Update we covered the different ways that utilities communicate, and specifically addressed the communication and branding that occurs during customer-service interactions. Go to www.utilitybranding.blogspot.com to review this Update.
Water-Use Efficiency Communications - For this Update we will focus on utility communications designed to change customer behaviors, specifically water conservation or water-use efficiency programs. These programs have been effective because the objective is very clear: encourage customers to take advantage of water-saving devices (for example washing machines, shower heads, and smart sprinkler systems) and if possible adopt habits that conserve water.
Communicating the Motivations - The added opportunity is to make sure that customers understand why saving water is important. Even utilities have a tendency to categorize water-use efficiency as simply the right thing to do. But customers can and have become confused when they conserve water and their rates go up. This is a likely scenario unless the utility’s rate structure is designed to cover fixed costs independent of demand. So it’s important to embed information about the motivations for water-use efficiency in communication materials and content. The primary objective of these programs is not to help customers save money today, but to ensure long-term water reliability and cost effectiveness. Saving water also creates environmental benefits. Every drop of water saved is a drop that is not pumped to the customer, which saves energy, reduces carbon footprint, and means that less water needs to be extracted from the natural environment. It’s important to recognize that when we are communicating the motivations for increasing water-use efficiency, we have crossed a relationship line. We are no longer communicating to customers who simply buy water. We are now relating to customers as shareholders, and therefore investors in the long-term performance and reliability of the water system.
It turns out that being clear about the motivations for any activity or investment is the key to being meaningfully transparent. And transparency is the topic for our next Branding Update.