One of the advantages of an Advanced Metering system is that you receive daily information from your meters versus the old once a month or quarter. Our first thought is that this is great because the data will be available for us to look up whenever we need it. However, I also like to remind people that this also means the data can be viewed daily to resolve issues in advance. Of course we all hate adding extra work to our already busy lives. Here are some reasons why being proactive with your Advanced Metering system will only help you out in the long run.
It can make billing time less stressful
Broken equipment, customer tampering or other issues are not discovered until we want to gather information, which most frequently occurs when we want to gather billing reads. You spend time fixing issues to recover lost data during the most time-sensitive period of the month or quarter. Every utility we work with tells the same story about billing time – it’s a mad scramble to the finish line.
When regular data is available, we can find and resolve meter issues every day. Starting your morning tasking out the resolution of those issues along with a few simple checks means the work is more evenly spread and manageable throughout your billing period. When it comes time to get your reads for billing, all the issues have been resolved and it is one less stress during that harried time.
It can increase customer satisfaction
Daily meter data also provides information regarding volume alarms like high, no, or continuous usage. Often these alarms are not pushed out to customer service or operations via email or text (or if they are it can quickly become overwhelming). Instead, you have to go into the system to retrieve that information. In places where water prices are high, many customers are grateful when they can be informed of a water leak in their home causing unnecessary costs.
One of the more serious examples that I have seen occurred here in the upper Midwest. Operations was monitoring for alarms in the winter and found a house that had abnormally large amounts of water usage. They called the homeowner, who was actually a “snowbird” living down in Florida. That homeowner was able to contact a relative nearby who could check on their house and found that a pipe had burst from the cold. They were able to stop the flow and had the pipe repaired and the water cleaned up before the entire house was lost due to the damage. This is just one of many examples of how your metering system can really benefit your customers, but only if you are monitoring the data proactively.
It can help with conservation
Though conservation is a buzzword right now, we can all agree that it is still very important. Using extremely current data allows you to keep close track of your high users, quickly identify areas where resources might be lost, and find where equipment has been tampered with. If you don’t have daily data you would only be able to react after the monthly reads came in, which could be thousands of dollars wasted.
In addition to monitoring these large, obvious losses, you can also open the data up with a customer portal to put some of the onus on your customers to conserve. Most folks don’t know their usage patterns and how that equates to a larger or smaller bill. When you’re able to show them hard evidence for what they’re using and how it is costing them money it translates into their actions to conserve.
These are just a few ways that being proactive versus reactive with your Advanced Metering system can really help you out. What other benefits have you found from being more proactive with your meter data?