Hydrant Flushing in New England

Like all water providers, Dedham Westwood Water District performs hydrant flushing exercises, at least once a year. Communication with the public has been standard procedure, but typically relies on people checking the website or paying attention to the news – a well intentioned but unrealistic assumption.

With Dropcountr, DWWD staff are able to target customers neighborhood-by-neighborhood, with the right message at the right time, directly to their phone. The way you’d expect a service provider to.

Proactive and targeted communication helps the district
✓ reduce customer service calls
✓ reduce widespread alarm around discoloration
✓ improve customer satisfaction
✓ reduce communication costs

Print the case study here
Read the blog post here


January 2019: New Year, Same Commitment

A look back, and a look forward
Every December we take time to reflect on what we accomplished that year and sketch out next year’s area of focus: how do we help water utilities improve their customer service and self-service tools?

It’s a rewarding, humbling, inspiring, galvanizing exercise.

2018 was a keystone year for us with several high water marks:
✓ We met a broader cross-section of our community than any year prior;
✓ Our utility partners spoke at more events about their Dropcountr programs than any year prior
✓ Our programs were included in more grant funding events than any year prior; and,
✓ We saw more activity and interest among small-to-medium sized utilities than any year prior.

The last point – interest, activity and partnerships among small-to-medium sized utilities – is a promising sign of things to come for the water industry. No longer are digital customer services and analytics limited to the well-financed major metros; it’s becoming important enough, and valuable enough – especially with AMI – that smaller, leaner utilities are leading the change.

We want to highlight some of our 2018 wins below and give all a taste of 2019. We have a big year ahead of us and could not be more excited to march into it with you, our community.

Cheers to 2019, forward ho!
Kellock + Team Dropcountr


Industry Participant, not just a Vendor
We knew our community was strong, but the H2duO really brought things to the fore in 2018. Dropcountr sat down with Stephanie and Arianne and proudly sponsored Season 1 of “Water in Real Life”, a podcast that brings together water utility staff, conservationists and communicators – i.e. you! If you haven’t subscribed yet, please do!

A month later we shared the stage with Mary Ann Dickinson at WSI, discussing
the importance of engaging your Spanish-speaking customers. Talk to any of us if you’re building a strategy around your Spanish-speaking customers – we’re here to help.

Impressive Work in Denver
We wrapped an impressive pilot with Denver Water that was shared at the AWWA Sustainable Water Management Conference in Seattle. See how we drove >30% adoption and helped DW save $343/AF compared to previous conservation efforts at this link.

Austin and New England Too
Our partners in Texas and New England were quick on their customer engagement as well. Dropcountr was there to support Austin Water’s week-long boil advisory in October; an unprecedented event that saw a wonderful amount of neighbors helping out neighborsSouthwest of Boston our partner Dedham Westwood Water District was surgical in their messaging around hydrant flushing – reducing customer service call traffic and keeping customers informed and happy .

New Partners of all shapes and sizes
As an organization we take the long view with our utility and partner relationships. More importantly, the people that make them work. We could not be more excited to be growing the Dropcountr network  in Colorado, Texas, Montana, Florida, Georgia, California and beyond. Thank you for the continued support and partnership – you make us better.

Eager Water Wonks
We have a partnership with researchers at UC Riverside to pilot programs that help us and the utility better understand what messaging strategies and content drive water efficient behavior. When are your customers most receptive to messaging? What types of messages do your customers respond to? How satisfied are your customers?

Drop us a line at data@dropcountr.com to learn more.

Taste of 2019
This year we’re going long on automating routine tasks and actions, for both utility and customers. Improved leak resolution, thresholds, messaging, clustering, templates, UI, billpay, slowdowns and more. We’ll continue to champion our partners at regional AWWA conferences, on the airwaves, and in the press. Our goal, as it’s always been, is to help utilities and their customers save time, money and water.

Let’s get to work!

Sales Development Associate

Position: Full-time
Location: Greater Los Angeles (preferred); Remote candidates will be considered

About Dropcountr
Dropcountr helps water utilities apply data analytics, artificial intelligence, and behavioral science to better serve and engage their customers. We’ve partnered with cities like Austin TX, Denver CO, Bozeman MT and West Palm Beach FL and are looking for colleagues who can help support an expanding customer portfolio and software stack.
Our systems – and the projects you’ll develop – are changing the way water utilities operate.
For more detail, visit www.dropcountr.com/features

What we’re looking for:
Dropcountr is seeking a Sales Development Associate to support domestic growth by developing meaningful relationships with utility prospects via phone, email, and in-person meetings.  

What you’ll do:
– Screen and qualify prospects based on detailed market research
– Identify and add prospects to the sales pipeline
– Continue to refine and maintain a robust sales pipeline
– Work with the BD team to hand off interested prospects
– Understand the needs of the utilities and share insights with BD and Marketing teams
– Attend events and conferences as required

What you offer:
– Direct sales experience in SaaS/enterprise software
– Strong communication skills – verbal and written
– Strong desire for professional and organizational growth
– Ability to travel periodically for sales meetings and conferences

Qualities that stick out:
– Prior sales/work experience in utilities or local government
– Salesforce power user
– Informed perspective on issues relating to water, energy, and/or sustainability
– Candidates with consulting backgrounds in the utility space

What we offer:
– Mission Driven: some companies build software to sell ads and trade stocks, we seek to make our communities more water-resilient.
– Compensation and Benefits: Sorry – we’re not Yelp or Uber. But we can offer a competitive compensation, commission, equity and benefits (medical, dental, vision, life).
– Opportunity for rapid advancement: Huzzah! – we’re not Yelp or Uber! You’ll have a big role and voice at an early stage company tackling complex challenges.
– Work-life balance: We work hard while respecting personal time and time off.

Get in touch by applying through AngelList or here

October 2018: This is your utility calling…

What happened down in Texas?
Last Monday Austin Water (AW) issued an unprecedented city-wide boil water notice as its water treatment facilities dealt with a historic amount of debris from upstream flooding.

AW’s treatment capacity usually runs around 300 MGD but the debris reduced that volume to ~105 MGD. To make matters trickier, demand was running at about ~120 MGD, so AW and the Mayor asked residents to cut consumption by 15-20% to maintain water pressure and supply for emergency services.

To get a sense of things, check out these photos of Lady Bird Lake in Downtown Austin. Truly remarkable.

 How did people respond?
Social media (predictably) went a little crazy, and bottled water sales spiked – but calm under pressure was the status quo. Austin Water staff and Dropcountr were quick to communicate and support customers across social networks, in the news and on the ground.

Also, it was heartening to see neighbors helping out neighbors: breweries boiling water en masse to support local businesses, residents checking in on the elderly, even neighbor San Antonio Water System sent up a fleet of water trucks to support demand. Talk about hospitality.

An exercise in demand-response
It’s not often water utilities need to reduce service-wide consumption as quickly as AW needed to; typically the long-view is taken, in response to extended-drought or new development.

This event in Austin is a stark reminder of the importance of customer communication channels and building your customer relationship. It also highlights AW’s preparation for an emergency of this magnitude – major kudos are due to staff and management.

Dropcountr has supported Austin Water with customer portals and communication software since 2015. To learn more about our program please reach out to ganesh@dropcountr.com


➣ A status 12 years in the making (3 minute read)
Last Tuesday President Trump signed America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, which lifts WaterSense – that little program saving Americans more than $68 billion with a B on water and energy bills – from its status as a “discretionary” program to federal legal status. This is a huge win for the EPA and the Alliance for Water Efficiency. Nicely done all!

➣ WSI 2018
Another fantastic year at the Southpoint! We want to give a congrats to Dropcountr partner Austin Water for their G480 platinum certification (learn more about that accreditation here) and a shout out to Mary Ann Dickinson and Stephanie Zavala from Rogue Water (aka one half of the H2duO) for joining our discussion re: supporting your Spanish-speaking customers. Thank you!

➣ More Wonkiness
Hot off the heels of WSI we booked it to Palm Springs to present research about using data to target communications and drive conservation.
What day of the week are customers most responsive?
What type of messages *click* with customers?
What don’t?

Pretty nerdy (and highly useful!) research, but the audience response was overwhelmingly positive – thank you to those in attendance. We’re sharing the deck here. Feel free to reach out to ganesh@dropcountr.com if your utility is interested in learning more about how, where and when your customers are most responsive


What’s happening at Dropcountr

In case you’ve been under a rock, we’d like to make a formal introduction of our aforementioned friends the H2duO and their podcast Water in Real Life.

We’ve had the pleasure of sharing a stage, a podcast, a beverage and many laughs with these two over the past several months and wholeheartedly encourage you tune in to their Podcast every Monday morning. You can start with their recent conversation with our founder and CEO, Robb = )

Stay tuned!
Kellock + Team Dropcountr

Denver Water Case Study

Denver Water has piloted varying engagement strategies to educate customers about their personal usage and reduce overall consumption and better understand what channels are most effective ($/AF) for conservation communication and engagement. In 2017 Denver Water piloted Dropcountr’s customer portal, HOME, as part of this ongoing engagement strategy.

unhappy customers

September 2018: You ask me to conserve and then raise my rates?

You’ve heard it before, and you’ll hear it again
Customers are confounded by the usage-restriction and rate-increase one-two punch. “Am I being penalized for conservation? Why should I conserve or even listen if you’re just going to raise my rates? It’s as much a communication challenge as it is a financial and conservation issue.

Preparing your staff for those calls
The Alliance for Water Efficiency previously tackled part of this “cost of water” question with the Water, What You Pay For video. This time they teamed up with the California Water Efficiency Partnership and Los Angeles DWP to provide a clear, data-supported answer to the conserve-to-raise-rates dilemma. The net? Customer bills are 26.7% lower today than they would have been without LADWP’s efficient rates and conservation efforts – check out the whitepaper here.

Let’s weigh the costs
How many customers do their research on the cost of water? How loudly will they howl? How much time will this cost customer service reps? Communicating with, educating, and making your customers feel supported now might be the best way to avoid pains later, especially if your service area is prone to frequent usage restrictions or rate hikes.

It’s all about delivery
The 2018 J.D. Power Water Utility Residential Satisfaction study came out earlier this year (here’s the preview) and ‘frequent communication’ continues to support higher levels of satisfaction. Use all your channels, but don’t forget about mobile – it’s the cheapest, most effective means of engaging your customers and defusing those tough conversations.

Dropcountr helps utilities build positive relationships with their customers by way of an intuitive and powerful customer portal. To request a product demonstration, reach out to ganesh@dropcountr.com


A Texan, a Mexican, a Palestinian and an Israeli walk to a river (10 minute read)
Call it family therapy for water negotiators. This wonderful piece from the Texas Observer and Quartz explore the complexities of border water and how people can work together in a hotter, drier world.

Could water utilities evolve the way the electric sector did? (5 minute read)
Existing water systems are highly centralized and supported by old-fashioned financing models. But what if instead of simply replacing the physical infrastructure and financing mechanisms, the sector reinvented them?

The digital utility:customer relationship – what to do and when (5 minute read)
This small utility in New England has a trick or two up their sleeve on improving customer service and satisfaction. Hint: going digital helps and the best day to start was yesterday.  


What’s happening at Dropcountr
We are thrilled to present at WSI in two weeks with Mary Ann Dickinson and the H2Duo about supporting your Spanish-speaking customers; come on out with questions and ideas! Here’s the sessions list

We’ll also be sharing data-driven communication strategies at the Colorado Waterwise and Cal/Nevada AWWA Fall Conference (session list) next month.

Stay tuned! More coming shortly
Kellock + Team Dropcountr

digital utility

The digital utility:customer relationship – what to do and when

Things are moving fast
Like the toad in the boiler, it’s sometimes hard to appreciate how quickly software is changing our day-to-day activities. Teens are delaying getting a driver’s license in lieu of Uber or Lyft, payment apps like Venmo and Google Pay are replacing the exchange of cash, and cord-cutting, i.e. cancelling your cable package because #internet, has tripled since 2013.

Water utilities are doing their part to evolve and meet customers’ steadily changing expectations with services like customer portals that provide a customer’s usage and sometimes provide an online bill pay option. This is an important, albeit elemental and often static, step in improving a utility’s customer service and processes. The next step a utility can take to reduce costs and improve satisfaction is to use those existing services and start proactively communicating.

“Residents may experience water issues this week as hydrants are being flushed.”
How many calls does your customer service team field just about hydrant flushing? Well-funded organizations can dodge these with door-hangers, but sometimes teams are limited to social media, the local radio and grit.

Dedham Westwood Water District (DWWD) serves 13,500 New England homes and businesses outside of Boston and was the recipient of a generous grant from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to implement Dropcountr. Now in the second year of service, Executive Director Eileen Commane and her team are using targeted and immediate utility-to-customer digital communication to pre-emptively alert their customers to activities in the towns of Dedham and Westwood, such as hydrant flushing and pipe repair.

Annual hydrant flushing can lead to many customer service calls from our residents, alarmed by discolored water. It typically takes us about six weeks complete the exercise, which means a lot of calls,” said Eileen Commane, Executive Director of Dedham Westwood Water District, “Historically we’ve posted this announcement on our website or in the local press, to stay ahead of the calls – but this assumes people are checking the website or consistently paying attention and remembering what’s announced in the media – a tall order

“The staff strives to minimize customer inconvenience – but in the case of flushing, impacted areas are difficult to predict. It’s not that we haven’t been proactive about flushing announcements in the past – we simply didn’t have the ability to communicate directly with the customer in a timely fashion – six weeks is a long time.

“With Dropcountr, our staff are able to easily send targeted messages to the specific neighborhoods we’re working when we’re working them. That’s when the flushing maintenance really may impact them. Who wants to be on alert for six weeks when the laundry is piling up? Our staff report this direct approach has led to fewer customer calls and our customers have noted that they like receiving these proactive messages.”

So what? 
Proactive communication isn’t groundbreaking, but has historically been expensive (paper) and not effective (messages posted to the utility website) Not so, in the era of digital communication.
The best thing a customer service team can do now, to benefit their team today and down the road, is to start building that digital utility: customer relationship. Your customers are online, they just might not be online with you.

Start accruing emails (the smart utility would require at least an email, if not a cell phone); push your customers to online bill pay; invest in a website that is navigable; take it a step further and invest in a customer portal that facilitates (and automates) many of the functions that currently sink your customer service bandwidth – these are all steps that can be reasonably implemented and result in long-term efficiency and cost-savings.

Where are we flushing this week? Can we send them a heads up?
What customers are routinely late on their bills? Can we send them a reminder before its due?
What areas are affected by system outages? Will a change in messaging avoid inbound calls?

As you can imagine, proactive communication – as opposed to reactive – is easier to budget and manage. Dropcountr makes it easy to identify areas or behaviors of interest to facilitate engagement before it becomes a cost or time sink and will only become more useful over time. The march of technology isn’t steady – it’s rapidly accelerating and opening the door to operation efficiencies for utility staff.

Get your customers online! Your future team thanks you!

The Dropcountr program is made available to Westwood and Dedham residents as part of a pilot project funded by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection under Water Management Act regulations to promote water awareness and conservation. The project is a cooperative effort of the Dedham-Westwood Water District, Charles River Watershed Association and the Neponset River Watershed Association and we at Dropcountr are so grateful! 🙏🏼