This is the continuation of Ross and Heather’s answer to a participant’s question mentioned in “Levels of Service – How to Involve Customers and How Involved Should They Be?.”
and one last comment I want to make is the consulting process with the community can be a little overwhelming. So if you need to start at first without aligning some levels of service that you want to track, just within the utility, that’s a good place to start.
And then go out and consult and adjust the target levels or add service levels but don’t avoid doing the service level part just because you haven’t got the consultation done or you’re not comfortable with that.
Just setting those service levels initially around the things that really matter to you and at least starting that process and tracking your progress or meeting those is a good place to start.
And then from there, as you get more comfortable with the concept of level of service, you want to build in a process to get communication back from your customers and see what they think about, either an individual project or your overall utility.
But don’t wait while you’re trying to design a really good process to get information. Go ahead and start with some levels of service especially for those first two, public health and safety and environmental impacts.
And then at least start with what you think, the customer service or financial performance should be and then adjust them as you get more input from your customers. But don’t let it be a reason for not starting levels of service.
The other thing we found, we’ve been doing service levels for about 20 years now in New Zealand, and the other thing that we have found is that when you do, for engineers, particularly consultations like this, it’s not your natural field of expertise.
So you often need some help of some people who got skills in that area to help translate engineering speak into public… people speak, what the community understand.
When you do a process, a consultation process, and over time the community consensus builds around the action, the money follows because once your whole of the community agrees, this is what we want and we’re all happy with it or a good majority of the community, it locks everything in.
It’s very very powerful because the community suggests, we want this water supply or wastewater, we want these processes, we want it at this standard, and we’re happy to pay for it or we’re prepared to pay for it at least.
They might not be ever happy – but it just tends to take a little of that stuff that goes, swells around off the table because you’ve built the consensus. It’s not a quick process, though; so that can take years.
PHOTO CREDIT: Study Community Meeting by Howard Jefferson via Flickr Creative Commons License.