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How Advanced Metering Technology Improves Customer Service

When municipal committees gather to discuss whether it is time to convert their utility meters to advanced reading systems (AMR or AMI technology), the discussion tends to focus around issues related to per-unit cost, installation logistics, and system integration. These costs are often narrowly evaluated based on gains in economic efficiencies due to automation, but it is important that organizations are mindful of other areas of opportunity. 

Often left out of the conversation is the positive impact advanced systems can have on customer service, and the associated cost savings that can result.

With an increasing number of Canadian municipalities analyzing whether or not to adopt advanced reading technology, it is a good opportunity to shine a spotlight on how these technologies enhance the service you are able to provide to customers.

So, how are municipalities using advanced data collection to improve customer service? 

AMR minimizes the need and inconvenience of entering the customer’s property

 Once an AMR meter is installed, staff are no longer required to enter the property or inconvenience the homeowner. This can also protect homeowners against issues that can result if a meter reader’s work is impacted due to a dog on the property, or hazards in the yard.

If a customer calls with a question or concern – you’re prepared

The more advanced and automated the data collection system, the better equipped your staff are to provide responsive customer service. When a customer calls, the CSR can simply pull up current and historical usage data for the account. The customer dashboard can provide the CSR a great deal of useful information at-a-glance, including usage patterns. This will help your team to close service calls faster, reduce disputes, and reduce the need for and cost of service escalations or site visits.

Customers can view account information online, reducing customer service calls

Many remote metering systems offer a customer portal, which allows the resident to view their consumption at any time. This self-service feature can alleviate the customer’s need to contact your billing or customer service department entirely, freeing up your team’s valuable time.  

Billing disputes can be resolved quickly thanks to accurate usage data

With advanced data and timely collection, billing is based on actual customer usage and NOT estimates. This is fairer to the consumer as they are only charged for the water they actually use. If there is a dispute, you can provide the precise usage numbers in black and white. This eliminates grey areas and helps ensure customer bills are paid.  

That said, some billing discrepancies are due to legitimate issues, such as theft, usage on inactive accounts, or no usage on active accounts. Advanced systems are designed to detect such situations, and notify your team so they can take appropriate action.

Billing based on actual data typically results in lower charges

It has been shown that the cost to the average consumer will be lower on a metered system that monitors actual usage versus billing based on estimates. Consumers only pay for actual usage and tend to be more conscious of their patterns with access to more detailed  information. At the end of the day, finding ways to save customers money is the ultimate form of customer service!  

If there is an issue with the meter, you can provide remote diagnostics and system  modifications 

AMR or AMI systems that enable two-way communication give utilities the ability to interact with the end-point device, reducing the need for an in-home service call. Remote tests can be conducted by an employee in the general service area, or conducted remotely. This reveals if the device is functioning properly and will determine if a service visit is required.

You can be proactive in helping customers identify leaks and find cost savings 

Cost-conscious consumers are looking for ways to reduce household expenditures. Advanced reading technology can proactively help identify costly leaks (such as a faucet, toilet or pipe), which the customer can address in advance of getting a high-bill and facing financial repercussions. Automated meters can also allow your CSRs to recommend ways for customers to cut down on usage based on their consumption patterns, and proactively engage with households they believe can benefit by learning about conservation measures and programs.

Data can be used to guide customer education

Education and awareness are key components of customer service. The insights provided by advanced reading systems make it easier for municipalities and marketing teams to build educational campaigns using relevant data. Information can be based on how, when and why your customers are consuming utilities. It can also guide customers through seasonal watering restrictions if they live in an area affected by drought, or changes in water production or distribution capabilities.

With advanced reading, you’re there for customers. Literally! 

Advanced meter reading technology allows customer service representatives to connect with consumers as never before, thanks to the ability to connect directly to their metering system. Canadian consumers will ultimately be the main beneficiaries once advanced systems become commonplace in cities and towns across the country.

Thank you for your hard work. Be safe!

On behalf of the entire team at Metercor, we would like to recognize the efforts of municipalities and utilities who continue to provide essential services across our nation.

Our team is operating remotely, and are available to answer any questions you may have about our suite of metering solutions. 

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