When it comes to communicating rate changes, 62% of respondents to the 2023 AE2S Utility Rate Survey said they utilize utility bills to announce upcoming adjustments. Rate increases are often necessary to fund infrastructure improvements and maintain service quality. However, the way they are communicated is crucial.
Transparency is a cornerstone of effective communication with utility customers. People want to know why their bills are increasing and when they can expect the change to occur. Failing to be proactive when providing rate information can erode trust between water systems and their customers. An unexpected increase in their monthly bills can lead to frustration, but effective communication can help mitigate this by giving customers advance notice. Providing customers with information about when the rate increases will take effect and how they can prepare for the change can help ease the transition and reduce negative sentiment.
When a water system is transparent about upcoming rate increases, customers can make informed decisions about their consumption and budget. Clear communication can include tips on how to reduce utility costs, such as water conservation techniques. Empowering customers to take control of their usage not only helps them manage their expenses but also contributes to sustainability.
In addition to utilizing utility bills to provide a heads up to customers, water systems should consider utilizing a multi-prong approach to get the word out. Consider doing at least two of the following in addition to an announcement in utility bills:
- Publish an update on the utility’s website
- Post on social media
- Send a news release to local media
- Agree to interview requests to explain the need for the increase
- Mail a letter or postcard to customers
Engaging with customers and providing an outlet to listen to their feedback can also provide better rapport between the utility and its customers. This can lead to a better overall public perception of the water system.
When customers are well-informed and understand the reasons behind rate increases, they are more likely to accept the change even if they are not happy about the increased cost. A multi-faceted approach to communicating rate changes helps utility providers navigate the challenges of rate increases while fostering stronger relationships with customers.