Achieving excellence in customer communications
With 2.7 million customers across the south west of England, Wessex Water is constantly striving to enhance the effectiveness and value of its external communications. The organisation has recently leveraged Esri’s ArcGIS technology not only to diversify its communications channels, but also to significantly improve the quality and timeliness of the information it shares.
An ArcGIS web service gives customers easier access to information about maintenance works
The integration of GIS and SMS messaging facilitates timely notifications of water supply issues
Esri’s Operations Dashboard improves customer communications in the call centre
Wessex Water was the top scoring water and sewerage company for customer service in 2015, according to Ofwat’s service incentive mechanism (SIM) – and this coveted position is one that the company is keen to maintain. “We have been ranked in the top three UK utilities for customer service ever since privatisation, and you don’t achieve this incredible track record by sitting still and not evolving,” says Andy Nicholson, Asset Data Manager at Wessex Water. “As a business, we are constantly looking for new, creative ways to improve our customer communication, and GIS gives us an ideal platform for innovation.”
“ The ArcGIS-based interactive map supports our customer service vision by making it as easy as possible for customers to interact with us via the communication channel of their choice ”
Ryan Davies – Customer Experience Manager, Wessex Water
With over 16 years’ experience of using Esri’s geographic information system (GIS) solutions and an Enterprise Licence Agreement for Esri’s ArcGIS platform, Wessex Water had all the technology and skills it needed to drive four recent initiatives that, in a range of different ways, help to improve customer communications.
The first of these developments is an interactive online map that allows Wessex Water to share accurate, up-to-date information about planned and emergency works currently taking place throughout the region. Created using Esri’s ArcGIS Online solution, this web map includes added features such as live chat buttons, which enable customers to connect easily with customer service agents from within the map.
The second initiative is a new SMS-based communication tool that leverages Wessex Water’s existing operational GIS platform. Where there are temporary water service interruptions, engineers in the field use their mobile devices to draw polygons around the relevant streets. A list of customers’ mobile numbers is then automatically extracted by Esri derived client software, enabling the customer service team to quickly send out a timely text-based message to all households affected by the works.
In the customer call centre, Wessex Water has used Esri’s Operations Dashboard to improve communications by providing an up-to-the-minute graphical overview of incidents on huge wall-mounted, smart screens. The dashboard is also available via the organisation’s intranet, so in the event of an emergency, it is possible to make this real-time operational information available to managers on any internet-connected device.
Finally, Wessex Water has used ArcGIS Online and Story Map templates to more effectively convey information to the general public in a format that is simple to understand and easy for them to engage with. Published on the utility’s web site, they include an interactive, fully illustrated Story Map about a multi-agency scheme to improve habitats in the Stour region and protect native species.
Wessex Water was able to quickly introduce these four GIS-based initiatives, at low cost, as they were all developed using either the organisation’s existing Esri GIS services or new out-of-the-box Esri apps. “We developed the web map from concept to first proof in just three days,” recalls Nicholson. “All the projects were developed as part of ‘business as usual’ for the GIS team, removing the need for specific funding and project management overheads.”
“ Together with the ArcGIS web map, our GIS-enabled messaging service has led to a 20% fall in calls to our Customer Service Unit reporting problems with ‘no water’ ”
Ryan Davies – Customer Experience Manager, Wessex Water
Easier access to up-to-date information
The new web map allows Wessex Water to keep customers far better informed about current maintenance activities. It receives over 800 hits a month and is popular with customers, who can use it to quickly find the information they need without having to make a phone call. “The ArcGIS-based interactive map supports our customer service vision by making it as easy as possible for customers to interact with us via the communication channel of their choice,” says Ryan Davies, Customer Experience Manager at Wessex Water.
More timely notification about water supply issues
The SMS messaging service has proven highly effective in enabling Wessex Water to let customers know about emergency, unplanned maintenance works, so they do not become distressed or alarmed by an unexpected loss of water. “Customers are now far better informed,” Davies says. “Together with the ArcGIS web map, our GIS-enabled messaging service has led to a 20% fall in calls to our Customer Service Unit reporting problems with ‘no water’.”
More helpful dialogues with the call centre
Thanks to the introduction of the huge, visual dashboards in the Customer Service Unit, Wessex Water’s call handlers can provide more informative responses to customer queries. “The dashboard gives call centre agents greater awareness of issues occurring in the Wessex region,” comments Nicholson. “The outcome of the call is more likely to be helpful for the caller and more questions can be resolved first time.”
Greater awareness of the work done by Wessex Water
By viewing the ArcGIS Story Maps, members of the public can now better appreciate the full spectrum of activities that Wessex Water is involved in. As Nicholson says, “The Story Maps bring information together in a more understandable way and this, in turn, helps Wessex Water build a positive public perception of the company.”