Utility Best Practices for Consumer Confidence Reports

May 1, 2018
Master Meter explains why the report can be a valuable costumer engagement tool.

As a water utility, you know about the Consumer Confidence Report (CCR). Maybe your community calls it the Annual Drinking Water Quality Report. Regardless, it’s the one publication every community water system is required to provide to its customers.

Some customers may claim they’ve never seen it before. But they’ve seen it, assumed it was junk mail and recycled it, or worse, tossed it in the trash. This is often a missed opportunity to engage with the consumer. Consumers, regardless of which sector they work in, want to be engaged. Direct mail has its applications, but it can’t be your only strategy.

Providing customers with water quality information is an opportunity for engagement.

The speed at which consumers get information, whether accurate or not, is faster than lightning. Water utilities need to keep up with this quick-paced, data-consuming world that expects much more from both the private and public sectors.

To do so requires more context than what has historically been offered. Customers need to know your staff, your system and the industry in order to expand their frame of reference. They need to build trust with you. Why? Water systems hold the public health of their community within their pipes. Your community holds the direct line to the gatekeepers you need as your advocates. These gatekeepers help you fund, manage, and grow your organization. The CCR is a tool to create advocates and reduce skepticism and mistrust among your stakeholders.

Master Meter Inc. interviewed experts from the field to develop the following guide of best practices to help water utilities create more effective consumer confidence reports.

CCR Best Practices

1. Don’t forget who the audience is. Your audience is your customers. Write with them in mind. Make the content relevant to what impacts them most.

2. Don’t turn them off with content that is difficult to read. Readability is key. This doesn’t mean “dumbing it down.” It means using a writing style that is easier and more enjoyable for the reader.

3. Don’t stop at your printed product. Make a communication campaign that supports the report. Repurpose the content in social media posts, blog posts, and newsletters. Remind people to be looking for it in the mail. Explain what it is, the information that can be found in the report, and why it’s important to read.

4. Develop a creative team. Pick people from across your department and even from outside your department. Think outside the box, and beyond the black and white report. Remember who the end product is for.

5. Brainstorm better. Let go of the expectation that you’ll walk away with a plan after the first meeting. Have shorter, more frequent brainstorm sessions. Reconvene and discuss this deluge of ideas. Keep a notebook handy between brainstorms.

6. Partner with your communications and marketing divisions. They can help you hone in on an idea and help with the visual design. Local college students can be a low-cost graphic designer resource.

7. Tell your story. Use your story as a medium to convey facts and figures. According to Stanford Graduate Business School, stories are 22 times more memorable than facts and figures alone. WW

Master Meter is exhibiting at AWWA’s ACE18 in booth 22080. Learn more at mastermeter.com.

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