Every company faces a time when change is needed. For the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), that time came in 2011 when the company took a close look at its customer communications and realized it could do better.
As the nation’s largest municipal utility, serving the water and electricity needs of the City of Los Angeles, the company was facing high call center volume from customers who did not understand their bills—estimating that up to 25% of calls received from customers were about bill confusion. In addition, the design for the company’s monthly bill was more than a decade old. To address these challenges, LADWP revamped its monthly statement to improve the clarity and comprehension of customer invoices, reducing these call center inquiries and also beginning to influence customer behaviors.
The company enlisted the help of Ricoh* (Booth 2600) and began the process of identifying what changes needed to be made. To start, LADWP decided to build its new communication system with an Automated Document Factory (ADF) driven by the InfoPrint ProcessDirector workflow platform. ProcessDirector helped the company enhance productivity, while minimizing errors and lowering costs with extensive printer and inserter management capabilities—vital considerations when producing millions of statements annually.
The LADWP ADF also helped maximize postal discounts provided by the new U.S. Postal Service (USPS) Intelligent Mail system, allowing for further savings through more efficient mail preparation. Through more efficient mail prep and distribution, LADWP is also able to redirect statements of customers who have moved before the close of a billing period, enabling LADWP to send the bill to the new address. This minimizes the costly distribution of statements to incorrect addresses, along with the associated customer service follow-ups. In addition, InfoPrint’s ADF is an open and scalable platform, which will allow LADWP continued flexibility to respond to its customer needs in the future, including encouraging e-delivery.
With the foundation in place, LADWP moved onto the redesign, starting with the introduction of color into the bill. By streamlining information and presenting it in a more engaging, concise manner, the company hoped to direct customer attention to the most important messages in the statement, such as the payment due date. Next, the company completely redesigned the layout by adding graphs to show customer usage patterns and visual elements such as icons for each service (water, electric, and gas)—making the bill easy to follow and understand. By improving the readability of the statement, LADWP hoped to decrease the number of confused customers placing calls to the customer service call center—making customers happier and driving down costs associated with supporting the call center.
Beyond the design of the bills, LADWP wanted to change how it communicated with customers, particularly to make the statement as effective as possible. The municipality saw an opportunity to leverage its monthly bill to educate customers, as the company had a wealth of knowledge it wanted to share, particularly about new trends and emerging services. LADWP realized that by changing the way it communicated and better aligning with consumer priorities, such as saving energy, money, and environmental sustainability, it could become a service provider and an educator.
So far, the changes are a success and have garnered positive reactions from LADWP customers. In addition, the company is on target to reduce call center inquires and is tracking information on how customer behavior has changed, including energy consumption and emissions. LADWP is also on track to garner double-digit reduction in call center calls and is also expected to lower overall statement operation costs through additional process automation.
*Ricoh Production Print Solutions (RPPS) is a strategic business unit within the Ricoh Family Group of Companies that includes InfoPrint Solutions Company and other Ricoh production print organizations.