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Creating Loyal Utility Customers and Why It’s Important to Infrastructure Improvements

By Deen C. Rogers, CPA, Partner, June 15, 2017

Every community utility system faces significant financial challenges. Infrastructure replacement, repair and/or upgrades are the most critical issues to your bottom line.  

The EPA estimates Indiana alone needs $6.55 billion for infrastructure upgrades and renewal. We have a utility client in a small community with only 2,500 customers that is expecting a $12,500,000 investment to upgrade their service. That’s significant for them.

Utilities must constantly present their case to customers to gain acceptance for future rate increases at the local AND regulatory levels. Loyal customers will support your infrastructure investment requests. Unhappy customers will object at every opportunity.

Customer loyalty begins at the first contact with your staff – are your receptionists, CSRs and field service people friendly and able to answer questions?

Do your customers know your story? Probably not. Your message must tell the real value proposition for the customer–it takes millions of dollars to assure clean water comes out of their faucet every day. The American Water Works Association (AWWA) points out that $1 provides nearly 37,000 ounces of water compared to $1 to buy a single 4-ounce energy drink.

You can communicate your key messages in many ways and you should appropriately use all of these:

Personal Connections

  • Town hall meetings;
  • Presentations to Chamber of Commerce,  Lions, Kiwanis and Rotary Clubs;
  • Tours of your facilities;
  • Citizen and stakeholder advisory groups; and
  • Be an important part of community events and activities (fairs, festivals, etc.).

Social Media

  • Facebook;
  • Your website: is it up-to-date?
  •  Twitter for younger – Millennial – customers.

Local News Media

  • Develop a relationship with the editors and writers of your local newspapers and magazines;
  • Public access programs on your cable television system;
  • Become a regular on your local radio talk shows;
  • Write op-eds and letters to the editor; and
  • Be an information source for your television stations’ news room.

Use the basic communications tools

  • Your bill insert – research shows a simple insert is your most productive tool;
  • Paper or e-newsletter; and
  • Facilities brochure.

Focus on telling the value of your system, demonstrating its age and the need to upgrade or replace all parts. Communicate continuously and consistently. Avoid surprising or blindsiding your customers, local leaders and regulators.

Customers who understand the need to upgrade your system, make repairs and replace equipment, and why the rate increase is important to them can be your best friends.

Customer understanding of your system is important to your system’s future. Umbaugh’s experience can assist you. Please contact us at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Information in this article was believed current as of the date of publication. As you know, changes occur frequently. The information presented is of a general educational nature. Before applying to your specific circumstances, please contact us at


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