Dropcountr HOME – Designing for the Digital Utility (Part 1)

The past few months at Dropcountr consisted of working with utility partners and customers from California to Florida, evaluating a new approach to the way we display water usage to our end users. Usage, units, dates and timeframes – it can be confusing! Shoot, that’s why we started Dropcountr in the first place!

We’ve built out dozens of mocks, modifying in small and bold ways how we present information in a way that is digestible and actionable by you, the user. You’ll note changes and additions to the HOME app fall into three distinct buckets:

1) greater ease-of-use
2) contextual information, and
3) action-driven design.

We’re thrilled to share some of our findings and encourage constructive feedback by emailing us at hello@dropcountr.com

VIEWS

How you digest your usage over given periods of time is critical to doing something about it.. You’ll note that – for utilities supporting hourly reads – we removed the “week” view. Our goal here help you identify usage patterns from a macro perspective. Not only is your usage for a given time period front-and-center at the top of the screen, but also your goal. Are you over or under? By how much?

YEAR
We’ve migrated from displaying 6 months to 12, giving you the full picture of your usage. This change was a long time coming and we appreciate your patience

MONTH
The month view has been designed to help you identify patterns and anomalous usage. Your usage for each day are colored to illustrate your relative daily usage throughout the month. Darker colors represent your heavy usage days, and lighter colors your low usage days. 

For example, if you average 150 gallons per day (4,500 gallons per month), a day where you used 350 gallons may be dark, and a day when you used 50 gallons may be light. Should you notice a regular pattern of dark Tuesdays, it’s possible your irrigation controller is scheduled for Tuesdays and you didn’t know!

Also, days with a red notch suggest the start of possible leaks and can help you pinpoint where the issue is (“we had construction workers that week, it’s possible they hit a pipe”).

DAY
Your daily usage view was very much inspired by the iOS Screentime application, and can help you identify how much you’re averaging on a daily basis, as well as what hours of the day you’re using the most water.

Modals



Consolidating your usage and relevant information to a single screen was our priority. The data points you’re familiar with like tier information and how much you used last year are still present, but we’ve also added your averaged daily use for a given month and your per capita usage. 

“There’s no way I use this much water” – we’ve heard this many times! When you look at your consumption from a monthly view, 7,000 gallons sounds like a LOT. But it starts to make sense when you drill down to how many people in your household are using water on a daily basis.

For example, if you used 7,000 gallons in July, but you have 4 people in your household, that averages out to about 60 gallons per person per day. Which isn’t nothing – that adds up – but it’s not as daunting as reading 7,000 gallons on your bill.

Thresholds


We’ve been looking forward to releasing threshold alerts for a long time, and are thrilled to finally release it to our smart-meter supported users. Thresholds alerts are set to give you a heads up when your usage exceeds a certain dollar amount on your monthly bill. 

Perhaps you want to keep your usage down to $50 per month, perhaps you have $150 budgeted for it. Dropcountr will soon give you a heads up when you’ve exceeded that amount, so that you can throttle your usage if needed (and so that you’re not surprised when you receive your next bill!).

My utility


The final big request we heard from users was additional ways to navigate and communicate with their utility in the app. The goal here was to consolidate all the actions you may take on the utility website in the app and device you use every day.

Need to call customer service? Need to pay your bill? Want more information about your utility and the service area they serve? All this and more can be found in the My Utility page.


In Conclusion
Thank you again to everyone who participated – your feedback will help thousands of residents nationwide understand and manage their water use in smart and efficient ways.

We’d also like to welcome some of our new partners to the Dropcountr family – the City of Punta Gorda in Florida, the City of Santa Barbara in California, and the City of Hewitt in Texas.

We very much look forward to sharing these updates and appreciate your feedback – please send us a note at hello@dropcountr.com if you’d like to discuss further.

💦- Team Dropcountr

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

newyearnewme

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

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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!

Dropcountr Privacy & Terms

Thanks for using Dropcountr! Here we describe how we collect, use, and handle your personal data when you use our websites, software, and services (“Services”).

What & Why

We collect and use the following information to provide, improve, protect, and promote our Services:

Account information. We collect, and associate with your account, the information you provide to us when you do things such as sign up for your account.

Water usage information. Our Services are designed as a simple way to understand and manage your water usage. To make that possible we collect, store and process detailed information about your water usage over time.

Premise information. We collect information about your home and/or business that impact water usage (like address, location, premise size, number of occupants, irrigation system type and size). This information is used to customize goals, tips and rebates for you.

Usage information. We collect information related to how you use the Services, including actions you take in your account (like viewing usage, receiving messages, accessing tips and rebates). We use this information to improve our Services, and protect Dropcountr users.

Device information. We also collect information from and about the devices you use to access the Services. This includes things like IP addresses, the type of browser and device you use, the web page you visited before coming to our sites, and identifiers associated with your devices. Your devices (depending on their settings) may also transmit location information to the Services. For example, we use device information to detect abuse and identify and troubleshoot bugs.

Cookies and other technologies. We use technologies like cookies and pixel tags to provide, improve, protect, and promote our Services. For example, cookies help us with things like remembering your username for your next visit, understanding how you are interacting with our Services, and improving them based on that information. You can set your browser to not accept cookies, but this may limit your ability to use the Services. We may also use third-party service providers that set cookies and similar technologies to promote Dropcountr services.

Basis for processing your data. We collect and use the personal data described above in order to provide you with the Services in a reliable and secure manner. We also collect and use personal data for our legitimate business needs. To the extent we process your personal data for other purposes, we ask for your consent in advance or require that our partners obtain such consent.

With Whom

We may share information as discussed below, but we won’t sell it to advertisers or other third parties.

Others working for and with Dropcountr. Dropcoutnr uses certain trusted third parties (for example, providers of customer support and IT services) to help us provide, improve, protect, and promote our Services. These third parties will access your information to perform tasks on our behalf, and we’ll remain responsible for their handling of your information per our instructions.

Utility staff. Our Services display information like your contact information, premise information, and water usage information to your water utility’s staff. This allows your utility to target communications to the appropriate water users.

Law & Order and the Public Interest. We may disclose your information to third parties if we determine that such disclosure is reasonably necessary to: (a) comply with any applicable law, regulation, legal process, or appropriate government request; (b) protect any person from death or serious bodily injury; (c) prevent fraud or abuse of Dropcountr or our users; (d) protect Dropcountr’s rights, property, safety, or interest; or (e) perform a task carried out in the public interest.

Stewardship of your data is critical to us and a responsibility that we embrace. We’ll abide by the following Government Request Principles when receiving, scrutinizing, and responding to government requests (including national security requests) for your data:

  Be transparent,
  Fight blanket requests,
  Protect all users, and
  Provide trusted services.

How

Security. We are dedicated to keeping your information secure by following industry standard security practices. We continue to work on features to keep your information safe.

Retention. When you sign up for an account with us, we’ll retain information you or your utility provides to our Services for as long as your account exists or as long as we need it to provide you the Services.

Where

Around the world. To provide you with the Services, we may store, process, and transmit data in the United States and locations around the world—including those outside your country. Data may also be stored locally on the devices you use to access the Services.

You have control over your personal data and how it’s collected, used, and shared. For example, you can change or correct personal data. You can manage and edit your account and premise information through your profile page.

Changes

If we’re involved in a reorganization, merger, acquisition, or sale of our assets, your data may be transferred as part of that deal. We’ll notify you (for example, via a message to the email address associated with your account) of any such deal and outline your choices in that event.

We may revise this Privacy Policy from time to time, and will post the most current version on our website. If a revision meaningfully reduces your rights, we will notify you.

Contact

Have questions or concerns about Dropcountr, our Services, and privacy? Contact our support team at support@dropcountr.com. If they can’t answer your question, you have the right to contact your local data protection supervisory authority.

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

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➣ 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

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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

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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.  

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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