WSSC Water

Laurel, Maryland, United States

After WSSC Water modernized and simplified its rate structure, the utility also redesigned its bill to be easier to read and enhanced customer affordability programs to help more customers. Knowing these changes would have a direct impact on customers and key stakeholders, WSSC Water partnered with Raftelis to engage in an extensive public outreach campaign to ensure customers and stakeholders were aware of these changes. The utility knew that communicating these changes to WSSC Water’s customers would make the difference between a successful implementation and a potential reputational challenge.

Raftelis audited the utility’s current rate communication efforts, developed and tested a message platform, and worked with WSSC Water staff to create a communication strategy aligned with other customer service initiatives to increase customer acceptance of the rate structure change. Raftelis conducted peer utility research; sought customer input through focus groups and an online customer feedback community; and developed and implemented a strategic communication plan to ensure customers and stakeholders understood the rate change and could easily access information about WSSC Water’s new rate structure.

In developing this strategic communication plan, WSSC Water and Raftelis considered several customer, community, and stakeholder-based issues that needed to be factored into the communication strategy, including:

  • WSSC Water serves two counties with differing demographics and elected officials
  • Affordability is a key concern
  • Customers that consumed the least amount of water would see the greatest impact in the rate structure change
  • The rate change was one of many other initiatives being communicated
  • Customers were experiencing rate increase fatigue

The strategic communications plan was designed to increase customer acceptance of the rate change—and it worked. Customer feedback into the utility’s call center after implementing the communication plan was within expectations and the media coverage was neutral.

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