Bringing Efficiency to Customer Service

There was a time when the field technicians at the Henry County, Ga. Water & Sewerage Authority (HCWSA) had to come to the front yard to open the lid of a customer’s water meter in order to get a consumption reading for the month.
Then technology improved and readings were done with the touch of a wand. Today, in the digital age of information technology, the authority is one of the few water utilities in Georgia and the largest utility in the southeast that can boast radio-read metering throughout its entire system.

Drive-bys
Meters of HCWSA customers are read today with Sensus RadioRead drive-by systems. Thanks to this innovation, a field technician needs only to drive a customer route with a laptop in tow and the technology will do the rest. A vehicle transceiver unit in the truck connects with the meter transceiver unit on each customer water meter to make accurate water meter readings within seconds. There are countless benefits of the state-of-the-art metering system, perfected due to the long hours authority employees have spent refining its applications.
The daily reading of customer meters at the HCWSA is done more quickly and efficiently, not to mention more accurately, compared to more conventional methods.
Other advantages of radio-read technology include better recording of unaccounted-for water, a reduction in customer complaints, saved time that can be spent on maintenance of equipment and collection of outstanding debt, and a decrease in employee turnover in the authority’s customer service department.
“We have employees who have really taken ownership of this technology and who have provided their own suggested improvements to our operations,” said Ray Novotny, customer service manager at the HCWSA. “The technology is great, but it’s only as good as the people you have operating it, and we have excellent field techs and customer service reps working together to make RadioRead a tremendous success.”

Reading logistics
HCWSA Customer Service currently handles the meter reading and billing for approximately 52,000 customer accounts, which are divided into different billing zones or cycles, with four drivers handling 16 routes of readings per week. Each driver typically handles a route for each day, Monday through Thursday, using Friday and any other free time as contingency to help fellow technicians with busier routes or to work on maintenance issues with meters in the system.
Such impressive statistics did not come easily for the HCWSA, which first began using this technology for its water meters about seven years ago. Since that time, authority field technicians have taken control of installation by doing it themselves rather than passing the work on to contractors.
In addition, the authority has added mapping to its system and worked through other aspects of the software that accompany the technology. In doing so, authority employees have garnered work experience with each customer meter, as well as expertise in the intricacies of the drive-by systems.
“Our authority has a philosophy to invest in innovations and new technology in order to stay ahead of the curve on industry standards and regulatory compliance,” Novotny said. “We went to great lengths to get the RadioRead technology implemented throughout our entire system, and our customers should continue to reap the benefits in accurate readings and better service for years to come.”

Lindy Farmer is general manager for the Henry County, Ga. Water & Sewerage Authority. He can be reached at 770/957-6659, or by e-mail at info@hcwsa.com.

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