Yarra Valley Water settles disputes in minutes, boosts customer satisfaction, cuts site visits by 20 per cent, and achieves substantial annual savings each year.

Yarra Valley Water is the largest of Melbourne’s three water corporations, providing water and sewerage services to 1.8 million people and 50,000 businesses in the city’s northern and eastern suburbs. The company owns and maintains more than 9,000km of water mains and over 9,000km of sewer mains. In addition to supplying established communities and commercial entities, it also services new suburbs and business parks. To ensure the operational integrity of its infrastructure, Yarra Valley Water retains a dynamic and highly professional field maintenance team, committed to delivering exceptional customer service.

The company was keen to optimise the customer experience in relation to claims and billing disputes. These investigations were often costly and time-consuming, requiring site assessments and evaluation. Through the use of new technology, Yarra Valley Water hoped to gain greater insight into customer issues to enhance decision-making, resolve disputes faster, and increase customer satisfaction.

Yarra Valley Water deployed Nearmap for its field maintenance division, and settled disputes faster and more efficiently. It minimised revenue lost through compensation payouts, and greatly improved customer satisfaction. The company also eliminated a range of travel and inspection costs, enhanced maintenance and planning operations, and cut site visits by 20 per cent by using Nearmap to provide clear and detailed visibility into its on-the-ground assets.

Furthermore, by using Nearmap’s Timeline, a comprehensive archive of aerial surveys, to enable “before and after” comparisons, Yarra Valley Water was better equipped to monitor and maintain its extensive infrastructure, and respond quickly and personally to customer concerns, deepening customer engagement.

Resolves claims in minutes, improves customer satisfaction, and achieves substantial annual savings

Using Nearmap’s Timeline, Yarra Valley Water was able to provide detailed visual evidence in support of its disputes processes. This enabled the utility to determine the historical accuracy, or inaccuracy, of competing claims, resolve issues in minutes, and effect a dramatic increase in customer satisfaction.

“A property owner complained that his driveway was badly cracked because we had driven onto his property while doing maintenance works in the area,” said Alberto Vela, Manager of Yarra Valley Water’s Contract and Procurement.

“A month into the dispute, however, we still couldn’t determine a definitive cause, since the contractors insisted they hadn’t been anywhere near the property. We used the Timeline to view an image of the property pre-dating the maintenance works, and, by zooming down, were able to see clearly that the cracks were already there. It was then just a matter of going to see the property owner, showing him the photo, and the dispute was over. It was fantastic.”

The benefits Yarra Valley Water gains from using Nearmap images to settle claims also extends to the billing division, where customer consultants are able to have better informed conversations with customers. The outcomes have also been very impressive.

“A customer with an exceptionally high water bill insisted that the spike in her usage was due to our faulty infrastructure, such as a leaking pipe,” Mr Vela said.

“We didn’t disagree; we just opened Nearmap’s high-definition Timeline images of the property for the period in question. The first thing we noted was that the lawn on the target property was lush and green, while neighbours’ lawns were like straw. We then checked neighbours’ bills and confirmed that there had been no spike in their usage. This prompted the customer to remember the sprinkler she had been using all summer, and withdraw her complaint. Not only was the matter settled, the customer was actually grateful to learn the precise cost of her green lawn.”

In the past, billing disputes like this had often dragged on, with little real hope of a satisfactory resolution for either party. With Nearmap’s ability to provide detailed, factual evidence, however, this was no longer the case.

“Nearmap enabled us to effectively manage our customer disputes, resulting in reduced compensation payments and significant overall annual savings,” Mr Vela said.

At the same time, Yarra Valley Water used Nearmap’s products to further strengthen customer relations and reduce the number of queries that escalated into disputes, by identifying situations where faulty or damaged company infrastructure was impacting on customers, and rectifying the problem.

“There have been many cases where a customer has rung up to report an issue, and, after checking Nearmap, we have been able to confirm that it is our responsibility and fix it straight away,” Mr Vela said.

“It’s important for us to be able to do this, because it shows customers that our commitment to service quality is genuine, and not just marketing hype.”

Improves monitoring, cuts audit costs, and reduces site visits by 20 per cent

For already established and expanding residential areas, where infrastructure-alignment planning continues to be critical, Nearmap provides Yarra Valley Water’s growth planners and project managers with browser-based access to timely information on changing boundaries, new titles and recent property improvements.

“Nearmap allows our people to remotely monitor target sites and plan the location of required infrastructure, including water mains and sewer pipelines, without booking multiple appointments or intruding on customers’ time and property, which can be a massive logistical headache,” Mr Vela said.

“Admittedly, the savings this enables are not huge, but they are consistent. We’re looking to expand our use of Nearmap all the time, and we just seem to keep achieving new efficiencies, which includes reducing audit costs and cutting site visits by 20 per cent.”

Why Nearmap?

Yarra Valley Water required a solution which would help improve its process to resolve customer disputes in a timely and efficient manner. A field maintenance staff member with prior experience recommended a 12-month Nearmap trial, confident that it could address the company’s needs.

“From our experience, no other vendor provides the quality of imagery that Nearmap provides, far less the comprehensive suite of measurement and planning tools, the frequent capture and Timeline archive,” Mr Vela said.

“Other satellite imagery was great when it first came out, but it has not been able to deliver the timeline option we need for our business. The technology has advanced in many respects since then, and Nearmap is the face of that advancement.”

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