SUEZ Improves Customer Satisfaction by Increasing Staff Collaboration
By Shannon Decker, GIS Director, SUEZ North America
SUEZ North America operates across all 50 states and Canada with 3,000 employees dedicated to environmental sustainability and smart and sustainable resource management. The company provides drinking water, wastewater, and waste collection service to 6.7 million people daily; treats 560 million gallons of water and 460 million gallons of wastewater each day; delivers water treatment and advanced network solutions to 16,000 industrial and municipal sites; processes 160,000 tons of waste for recycling; rehabilitates and maintains water assets for more than 6,000 municipal and industrial customers; and manages $4.1 billion in total assets. The company posted revenues of $1.1 billion in 2019 and is a subsidiary of Paris-based SUEZ.
Managing a Complex Problem
The top priority of SUEZ is to ensure the reliable delivery of water that is of exceptional quality. Unfortunately, routine system maintenance such as flushing or valve turning, the occurrence of main breaks and leaks, or seasonal changes that can have a variety of unwanted side effects such as water discoloration, a slight change in taste or odor, or a cloudy appearance. In some cases, the cause of the water quality issue is unknown, and it is our duty to investigate the issue. Understanding how and why an issue exists and preventing it from happening again are complex workflows, involving multiple people across many departments. Managing the effort was historically time-consuming and difficult. SUEZ needed a way to easily collect, visualize, and report on the complaints; alert the respective departments of their next steps in the process; share the collected data across multiple platforms; and maintain communication with the customer regarding the status of their issue.
Collaborating across a Common Platform
SUEZ turned to geographic information system (GIS) technology to create a new workflow that would simplify the management of water quality complaints. In 2017, SUEZ migrated its on-premises server to a fully cloud-based solution using Amazon Web Services and Esri's enterprise GIS platform. Over 1,000 employees currently have access to GIS across SUEZ North America through their desktop browsers or their mobile devices for field use. Office staff and mobile workers are well versed in using these tools, so learning the new workflow was seamless.
The full solution for investigating water quality complaints is composed of three GIS applications: the Customer Service Web Application, ArcGIS Survey123, and ArcGIS Dashboards. The first and most critical tool in the workflow is the Customer Service Web Application where customer service representatives (CSRs) can view information about what events are occurring in the system in real time. They can see which hydrants were recently flushed, where construction projects are taking place, where valve operations and main renewal projects are occurring, and where a main break or service outage may have been reported. The application provides the CSRs with all the information needed to respond to a customer inquiry about a water quality issue in their area. In most cases, the CSRs can explain why the customer is experiencing a change in water quality, record the complaint, and resolve the issue. Resolution for customers in one call or email is always the goal.
"The Customer Service Web Application has created a level of efficiency for customer service representatives that we haven't seen before. Whether pulling data/information for a service order or speaking with a customer, we can provide much more comprehensive, up-to-date information faster, improving the customer experience and making our jobs easier."—Katie Colonna, Customer Service Representative
In cases where the web application is unable to provide an explanation for why the customer is experiencing the issue, the next steps in the workflow can begin. The CSR will then use the Water Complaints Editor Widget to record the call. This widget was built using Survey123 and contains a scripted, dynamic survey. Depending on the customer's answers to the survey, a site investigation by a Water Quality Specialist (WQ Specialist) may be required. Responding "Yes" to critical questions, such as follow-up required or water test required, will trigger an investigation by a WQ Specialist. The WQ Specialist can now begin their investigation.
In addition to the informational layers, the web app also contains several other widgets that show information about the complaints that have already been submitted. The widgets highlight any event that is still active in the system and require follow-up with the WQ Specialist or the customer. This information is always at the fingertips of the CSR and ensures that events are closed out as quickly as possible. This feature alone is a huge improvement to the days before the web app was built because the various departments in SUEZ that share responsibility for managing the resolution of the issue (Customer Service, Engineering, Water Quality, and Transmission and Distribution) did not have access to the same information. Data would get lost or would be duplicated, and some customers would receive multiple points of contact while others would receive none. The status of a water quality complaint was difficult to track and resolve. Now, all departments have access to the same information—everyone knows the status of each issue, and communication with each other and the customer experience have greatly improved.
"Feedback from training indicates that the Customer Service Web Application and subsequent survey have successfully focused the support provided by a multidisciplinary operations team on the achievement of the primary CSR objective: Ownership and improvement of first call resolution. The live, visual operations updates, coupled with the consolidated job aids organized per web application category, have provided immeasurable improvements of CSR understanding of utility operations and their impacts to customers."— Gayla Fecher, Manager of Engineering
The final piece of the workflow is the operational dashboard created using ArcGIS Dashboards. This dashboard summarizes the current data clearly and concisely and is available to anyone in the company. It is especially helpful to the senior leadership and engineering teams who can easily access the dashboard and know exactly where and what the outstanding issues are.
Streamlining Workflows for Quick Resolution
Since rolling out this solution, SUEZ has seen a decrease in the time it takes to resolve a water quality complaint. Water quality complaints, on average, used to take 24 hours to resolve, but now, they take less than 3 hours. SUEZ has seen an increase in communication across departments and collaboration needed to resolve these issues quickly. The Customer Service Web Application provides a one-stop-shop for knowledge about all major events that are going on across the utility in real time, empowering the CSRs to respond confidently to any customer inquiry. The web application, in conjunction with the Water Complaints Editor Widget app, provides a closed-loop workflow for investigating complaints, ensuring that all departments are kept informed and know what the status is at all times. The use of the dashboards not only helps the leadership team see the big picture and understand what is happening across the utility, but it also helps our engineers understand where the recurring issues are, which guides the planning of future capital projects.
SUEZ sees the success of this workflow as our first step in improving the customer experience. In the near future, SUEZ will begin creating ArcGIS StoryMaps narratives that will be emailed to customers as well as shared on the SUEZ customer website. These stories will describe potential reasons why customers may be seeing discolored water or may notice a slight taste or odor during certain times of the year. The stories will also provide information about current system maintenance happening in their neighborhoods or seasonal water quality events such as algae blooms. This proactive approach to communicate with customers will promote transparency and build understanding about the water SUEZ serves our customers. This software is just one of the ways SUEZ continues to ensure reliable delivery of water that is of exceptional quality.
Here at SUEZ, we have one mission: To ensure the safe and adequate provision of water service to our customers. The solution helps us do this while focusing on delivering superior customer experience.