Addressing Customer Dissatisfaction

Operating a water system in certainly more enjoyable when customers are satisfied with the service. Many systems run so smoothly that customers barely pay the services any mind, while others experience temporary or chronic issues that lead to customer dissatisfaction. Regardless of which of these categories your system falls into, it is important to create an avenue through which customers can voice complaints and offer feedback. Feedback is key to optimizing your service. Read through the sections below for ideas on how to solicit feedback and address customer dissatisfaction.

Soliciting Feedback

A common method for gathering feedback is to make a feedback form readily available to customers. This form could be mailed along with bills and/or set in a prominent location within the utility or administrative offices, local community buildings or even the village/community store. Make sure that customers have the option of submitting the form anonymously if they wish and that it is clear to them where they should return the form to.

Here’s an example Customer Satisfaction Form. This one assesses a little more than just customer satisfaction and is written for a specific community with a haul system for treated water, but you may find some components that you’d like to borrow for your own customer satisfaction form.

Customers should be able to provide feedback at anytime. It will also be to your advantage as utility managers to solicit feedback from your entire customer base on a regular basis (bi-annually, annually, etc.)

Using Feedback To Improve Services

Once you have solicited and received feedback, you may be able to identify some specific sources of frustration for customers. Some examples of actual issues that have caused customer dissatisfaction include:

  • Low water pressure in one section of town.
  • Intermittent failure of the sewer system.
  • Aversion to appearance (failure to sequester Manganese which, although harmless, gave the water a black tint).

Some sources of dissatisfaction can be addressed through educational outreach while others may require repairs or upgrades to the actual system. Once you have determined the source of dissatisfaction, browse back through the Resources for Local Leadership to see if anything addresses your issue. If you don’t see you particular source of dissatisfaction addressed, please contact TWC and let us know so that we may add your issue to our site.

You may wish to set a SMART goal to address your issue. SMART goals are:

Here’s an example of a SMART goal for a an Alaskan village facing customer dissatisfaction due to intermittent failure of their vacuum sewer system:

SMART Goal: Reduce the number of days without sewer service by 75% within 1 year.

  1. Specific: The goal is clearly defined.
  2. Measurable: The community is well aware of the number of days they went without a functioning sewer in the past year, so it will be easy to measure progress toward this goal.
  3. Attainable: Due to the complexity and inevitable occasional malfunction of vacuum sewers, eliminating days without service completely may not be possible, but the community believes that they can reduce days without service by 75% by conducting an educational campaign and encouraging homeowners to upgrade a specific valve in their toilets.
  4. Relevant: The goal is directly related to the function and responsibility of the water and sanitation utility and customer satisfaction with their provided service.
  5. Time-based: The community plans to spend 5 months developing outreach materials and securing funding. They will then offer the valves at a subsidized price for a limited time in order to encourage all homes to upgrade within a time frame of 6 months while simultaneously implementing educational outreach. They hope to see the goal achieved by the end of one year. 

Reporting Back To Customers

​Your customers will appreciate knowing that their voices have been heard. Let them know that you take their feedback seriously by keeping them updated on the actions that you are taking to address their dissatisfaction. Of course, it is always worthwhile to inform customers of upgrades to the system or efforts to improve service even when they are satisfied overall.