Social media gives customers power (and water)

After struggling for weeks to connect with the local water provider and fielding a shut-off notice, one carefully worded ping on social media yielded results within an hour.

customer experience
Credit: Thinkstock

One of the most frustrating parts of moving, at least for me, is the administrative stuff. Changing my address, making sure electricity, internet service, natural gas, water services are all turned on. For the most part, even though we moved to a different state, everything transitioned smoothly… except for our water provider.

We officially moved in over the July 4th holiday weekend, so I called on Tuesday, July 5 to switch the service into my name and arrange for online billing. I was treated to an automated message stating that, "We are experiencing extremely high call volume, and ask that you call back at another time," and then the call disconnected.

I tried again the next day. Same message, same result. I tried later in the day. Later in the week. I started to freak out -- what the heck was the problem here? I kept trying, still to no avail.

Finally, earlier this week (23 days after we moved in) I got a notice in the mail from the water provider saying, "Our records indicate that we have not received an application for service at this address where water and/or wastewater service is being used … We cannot leave the service on if we do not receive an application for service."

That's when I got angry. I'm trying everything I can to give you my money. And nothing's working -- what am I supposed to do if the avenues of communication fail? Well, I did what I think most web-savvy, technology literate people would do, I turned to social media.

I found that the water provider had a Facebook page, and I sent them a private message explaining the situation and asking for help to set up my account and avoid having my water shut off. Within an hour, a customer service supervisor called, was able to resolve the issue and set up my account. Whew.

As to the matter of why I couldn't get through on the phone, well, the provider had an IT/telecom specialist call me and they're trying to track down why my phone calls were shunted to the automated 'high call volume' message. That's a bit creepy, actually, since they can trace the times, dates and duration of all the calls I made to them from my phone, but that's another issue altogether.

I'm glad companies are leveraging the reach of social media to better communicate with their customers and to help provide better customer service. I'd love it if I hadn't had to use that medium at all -- there really should be an option for new customers to sign up online, but at least social media was available to me when I needed it. Now, if only the DMV were as easy to navigate.

Download the CIO October 2016 Digital Magazine
View Comments
Join the discussion
Be the first to comment on this article. Our Commenting Policies