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The continued roll-out of digital capability across retail and service providers means that today’s consumers expect a user experience similar to online shopping or banking. Digitally connected customers want to be able to do things a certain way: easily, quickly, and from wherever they happen to be. 

Across the utilities sector, energy suppliers have moved quickly to embrace new technologies that improve the customer experience. However, water providers, some more than others, remain significantly out of sync with that transition. The impact of this situation is made even more visible by the advances in technology which have left many of the legacy systems some water utilities are still using in the dust.

Customer expectations, and their experiences with other suppliers and providers, are such that water utilities can use this opportunity to invest in a digital future. However, there can be a multitude of reasons behind a business not choosing to prioritise digitalisation and improvements to customer experience – from lack of available funding, to fear of how change will be received.

To adapt to the needs of today’s customers, water utilities must enable their customers to shape their relationships with their supplier, which means embracing digital transformation to grow and improve the customer experience. Though implementing a completely new billing solution may seem like a daunting task and a significant financial commitment, it is an invaluable investment that can solve critical customer pain points while helping to improve operational efficiencies and achieve business goals. 

It is important to leverage an accomplished firm that utilises best-in-class, market-leading technology and has vast experience in numerous successful implementations. With proper planning and a great team in place, you can achieve endless benefits from modern enterprise technology. 

Coliban Water, an Australia-based water utility that delivers drinking water, sewerage, rural water, trade waste and recycled water services to around 160,000 people and close to 7,000 businesses in north-central Victoria, was looking to upgrade to an intelligent billing and customer information system (CIS).

Damian Wells, Managing Director at Coliban Water, said, “Our billing solution was reaching the end of its lifecycle. A 20+ year old system was at risk of obsolescence, and it wasn’t helping us meet the contemporary needs of our customers.”

Andy Mack, Product Director at Aptumo, said he is hearing this around the sector more and more often.

“Water utilities everywhere are realising that their customers’ expectations now extend beyond the provision of clean water and/or sewerage services, so it’s time to make changes,” Mr Mack said. 

As technology evolves, solutions like Aptumo are helping the water sector catch up with the digital experience customers are now used to. 

“We want Coliban Water to be easy to deal with,” Mr Wells said.

“Combining Aptumo – a water sector-specific billing solution – with the variety of cloud-based business tools and apps available on the Salesforce platform gives us the power to make that happen.”

Aptumo is part of SSPlc, an integrated services partner for the UK water industry. The group has more than 170 years of experience in the sector, providing everything from infrastructure and asset management to leak detection, health and safety, and hygiene services. 

The group also owns and runs two regulated water companies, South Staffs Water and Cambridge Water, which have a combined customer base of more than 1.6 million people.

“Aptumo was developed by the team at Echo Managed Services (Echo MS), also part of SSPlc, which provides customer relationship services for South Staffs Water and Cambridge Water,” Mr Mack said. 

“We’ve drawn on decades of hands-on experience to make Aptumo an agile, scalable solution that understands the issues that water suppliers face every day. We want to put the power of digital in their hands.”

When opportunities to engage with customers are limited, each one should be used to exceed their expectations. For a water utility, billing is often the extent of communication between supplier and customer. Lengthy gaps between engagements don’t help. Working harder isn’t the answer; water utilities need to work smarter. 

Aptumo delivers pre-built water processes which are data driven and can automate personalised customer interactions. It’s built on the Salesforce platform which means water utilities can build as many, or as few, of the apps and tools available through the Salesforce App Exchange into their customer service provision to shape the customer journey to meet – and exceed – expectations.

“We’re committed to helping our clients advance their digital strategies, giving them more autonomy over their internal systems, reducing risk and improving the productivity of their billing processes,” Mr Mack said.

Being built on the Salesforce platform means that Aptumo provides enhanced data security. Its rich, out-of-the-box functionality can help water companies improve productivity, while offering their customers more choices and better service, reduce time to resolve enquiries, and it can decrease manual work for staff to integrate with other in-house systems. 

Careful data mapping during integration – supported by robust validation at input – improves data quality, which gives the company a more detailed understanding of the customer experience through fully customisable dashboard reporting.

Coliban Water’s goal was to reimagine their current user experience, to eliminate friction and to create a barrier-free experience for their customers. After searching the billing solutions market, Coliban Water selected Aptumo’s platform and began a rapid cycle of designing, building and deploying. 

“Bringing Aptumo on board is a huge and exciting milestone for us. Aptumo has put us on a path that will enable us to provide an improved customer service experience,” Mr Wells said. 

“The team has been great to work with, particularly as we navigated the ‘go-live’ of Aptumo. We have more work to do, with further improvements being implemented to realise further benefits for our customers and our business.”

This sponsored editorial is brought to you by Echo MS. For further information, please contact Matt Bowd at matthewbowd@echo-ms.com.

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