Communications Manager Donna Alston Explores the Relationship Between Social Media and the Customer Experience

Hey! Who Opened That Door?

I recently had the privilege to be part of a panel of communications professionals who were charged with dropping knowledge about social media and the customer experience on a group of students studying communications at my alma mater, Temple University. My first thought was that because the audience was primarily millennials, that they should likely be dropping social media knowledge on me.

After I pulled myself together, I remembered that the topic was really about the customer experience and how it has been impacted by social media. Feeling a bit more confident, I began to think about just that. One of the most significant impacts of social media is that it has made everything public. No more private showing or sharing of anything that has been documented in any way, for anyone, anymore—and probably never again. Terms like, “behind closed doors” and “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” are now officially anachronisms.

But what has this truth meant for the customer experience? On the business/service provider side of that experience, it means that customer service is no longer solely seated in the “customer service department” because now, the entire world has a bird’s-eye view of that customer experience. What used to take place between one customer and one service representative via a secure landline is now on the internet for everyone to see. Many customers are less likely to use landlines (which are nearly anachronisms) to call a service provider, than they are to use cell phones to Tweet their issues, airing them on companies’ social media sites—which could easily be the most massive of all mass media.

This thought alone can be daunting, particularly when you consider that most customers only connect with customer service when there is a problem. So how are businesses to handle this still-rather-new, very public customer experience?

When I think about the answer, I’m reminded of my childhood and my parents in particular, who taught me to always be on my best behavior. And make no mistake about it, there was no compromise on that mandate when in public. I’d better not embarrass them when we were in public—because my behavior was a direct reflection of their parenting skills and an implication of what took place in our home.

In much the same fashion, companies should always have their best face forward when managing customer issues on social media (and elsewhere). When they don’t, just like with the misbehaved child, they leave the public wondering what’s going on at home. Who is minding that store?

Customer issues raised on social media should be handled with the same promptness, courtesy, concern, and attention we would provide to our most loved family member. Their handling should reflect the company’s brand and values, and embody its mission, because just like the child, it provides an indication of what’s going on inside the business and what is taking place with their operations.

There is already an inherent relationship between customer service and operations, which is often the primary source of information needed to reply to customer queries. However, customer service professionals charged with managing the social customer experience would be greatly served by consulting their company’s communications professionals. Social “media” has created a nexus where customer service and communications meet. I suggest that the best social customer experience is one that is informed by customer service and communications professionals. The icing on the cake comes when both of these groups have complete and consistent access to their peers in operations who are keeping the business running.

Operations professionals ensure that the information needed to provide the right answers and appropriate solutions to customers is made available to the customer service team. They should also provide notice of potential issues in a timely fashion so that customer service can proactively alert customers about potential problems when appropriate. These decisions should be made with input from the communications team. Customer service professionals ensure that responses are delivered promptly and contain information that will actually resolve the issues, and that proactive messages are delivered when needed. Communications professionals ensure that all messages are consistent with the company’s brand, values and mission.

When the customer service/communications nexus is synced and fed consistent and comprehensive information from operations, it doesn’t matter that the door is open and your company’s customer experience is taking place in public. Why? Because now, like that well-behaved child, your company is on its best behavior, leaving little or no room for anyone to wonder what’s going on at home or who is minding that store.

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Aqua Partners with Cristo Rey High School to Offer Students Professional Work Experience

Throughout the last few months, there have been some new faces around Aqua. These are the faces of the Cristo Rey High School interns. There are four interns working at Aqua, one from each grade. I am the senior student, Kathleen Santiago, and I have been working with the communications department. Also joining me at Aqua are freshman George who is working in the Human Resources Department, sophomore Aaron who is working in the Accounting, Rates and Planning Department, and junior Jaide who is working in administration, which comprises customer operations, IT and fleet.

Cristo Rey is a college-prep, private Catholic high school in North Philadelphia. Being a student at my high school is not like being a student at your typical high school. Cristo Rey is particularly focused on getting us into college, and having an internship all four years helps us achieve that goal. Our internships are organized through the work-study program, which is a significant part of being a student at Cristo Rey. It is what keeps our school running, and keeps our education affordable.

Our internships do not interfere with our academics, and the ability to maintain my schoolwork while having an internship has become something that is natural to me. Having the opportunity to be involved in the work-study program helps us get ready for college and the real world and ultimately has helped me grow.

This is how the work-study program works: Each Cristo Rey student works one day out of the week in a professional setting as a full-time intern. Given that we miss one day of school, our academic day is extended. The internships help students pay for the cost of a private Catholic school tuition. While working, each student earns approximately 60 percent of their tuition, and their family contribution covers the rest.

We do not get to choose our job placements, but we do get placed based on our interests. To help us get paired up with the best internship experience, we take surveys and work with the work-study department to determine what we’d like to do in the future. Our internships are assigned to us during what Cristo Rey calls “Signing Day.” This is an NFL-style draft day, where all job partners come and announce who will be joining their company and give out a little of their company swag. Local news is always there to capture the excitement, including NBC 10 and FOX 29 news.

Being involved in the work-study program has given me the opportunity to experience working at four varied companies. During my freshman year, I worked at Lavin Law. At Lavin I summarized depositions and I even had the opportunity to attend some depositions in person. The Comcast Center was where I held my sophomore year internship. While at Comcast, I worked in the Products and Engineering Department. My responsibilities were to test new products that would soon be sold to customers, as well as prepare reports based on current customer feedback. For my junior year, I was an intern at Penn Medicine Tuttleman Center. While I was at Penn, I answered phone calls from patients, took messages and put in prescriptions.

Now for my final year in high school and in the work-study program, I am going to soak up all the skills and knowledge I can while here at Aqua. I am extremely excited to develop new skills, and expand my writing skills and proper business etiquette. I also hope to leave behind some of the things I have learned as well.

I am happy to be a part of the team at Aqua, and to have the opportunity to get to experience new things like writing blog entries for the company website, meeting new people and building relationships. I will be able to take these skills, along with those gained throughout my previous three internships, with me next fall as I begin my journey into college.

Throughout my time at Cristo Rey High School, I have come to realize the importance of my internships, and how they will help prepare me for my college journey and beyond. Because of Cristo Rey, and my experiences at my internships, I was accepted into Cabrini University and Gywnedd Mercy University. I am genuinely grateful for Cristo Rey, the work-study program and for my final internship here at Aqua.

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Say Goodbye to Grease!

 

We have a lot to be thankful for this holiday season and clean plumbing is near the top of that list. However, with tons of family members coming over for Thanksgiving it’s easy to let things fall through the cracks, and pipes.

 

Avoiding costly clogs may seem impossible. Fat, oil and grease solidify in household drains and, overtime, can completely block pipes. Items such as sauces, meats, dairy, cooking oil, butter, food scraps, and lard contribute to nasty congestion. But don’t worry, follow our tips and you can be living a perfect plumbing life.

 

First, you should know the risks. Blocked pipes can:

 
  • Back up raw sewage, which can cause serious health hazards.

  • Be expensive and unpleasant to clean up.

  • Create an overflow of raw sewage into parks, yards and streets.

  • Pollute groundwater.

  • Increase costs for local wastewater utilities, causing higher sewer bills.

 

Many people aren’t aware that their everyday habits can be detrimental to their plumbing. Are you a mindful homeowner? Find out below.

 

Myth:

Pouring grease down sink drains or into toilets is OK.

Fact:

Pouring grease anywhere other than metal cans to be placed into the trash is a major problem.

 

Myth:

Garbage disposals keep grease out of the plumbing system.

Fact:

Garbage disposals are handy for other purposes but will not prevent grease from backing up your pipes.

 

Myth:

Baby wipes are as flushable as toilet paper and will not cause any damage.

Fact:

Just because baby wipes, and other flushable wipes, go down the toilet does not mean they should. They’re actually doing more harm than good. Just throw them away!

 

How’d you do? If you still need some help protecting your pipes, consider installing grease traps. For one to work correctly it must be:

 
  • Designed, sized and manufactured to handle the amount of grease that is expected.

  • Installed properly, level and vented.

  • Cleaned, maintained and serviced frequently.

 

Solids should also never be put into grease traps. Additionally, you should not rely solely on your grease trap. Lend a hand by putting strainers over sink drains to catch food scraps and other solids, and by scraping food scraps and grease into a trash can.

 

Lastly, these issues aren’t just found at home. Business owners should follow these tips as well to keep their company running smoothly. Aqua actually helps businesses by visiting kitchens and food services to ensure compliance with state regulations. This is done through regular inspections of wastewater systems.

 

So, water you waiting for? Give us a call today to set up an appointment! And, for more WaterSmart Tips visit AquaAmerica.com.

 

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Aqua Gives Back with Community Volunteerism Program

As a company, Aqua believes in giving back to the communities we serve, and recognizes the value that volunteer service has for both local organizations as well as our employees. It is with this mindset, that an initiative to roll out a Community Volunteerism Pilot Program at Aqua was created. Through this program, employees will be able to participate in company-sponsored community outreach events, and build camaraderie at the same time.

"I am very excited that we are piloting a volunteer program across Aqua," said Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Karen Heisler. "This year, our goal is to set up various company-sponsored events at local community organizations in the areas where we serve and live. This is a great program that complements our United Way corporate giving program. Actively engaging and assisting the organization makes the activities personally fulfilling. In addition, these activities enable Aqua employees to interact with other colleagues in departments with which they might not have regular interaction."


To ensure the program is as successful as possible, the pilot is being rolled out slowly in a few locations, while exploring how to expand it across all of Aqua's states. To kick things off, Ohio and Pennsylvania locations participated in a few volunteerism events. 

In Ohio, Aqua employees volunteered at a local food bank, the American Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity. Employees from Aqua Pennsylvania made two trips to Philabundance, the region's largest hunger relief organization. Among the volunteers assisting with sorting, packaging and preparing food items for distribution, was Aqua President and CEO Chris Franklin.


"This is great, we're getting a chance to help other people, get reacquainted with friends, get a little exercise, all good things," said Franklin.

This new program allows Aqua to expand our corporate social responsibility and emphasizes our company's commitment to community service. The overwhelming response from those involved in this initiative so far has been positive, and volunteers are getting a lot out of their experiences, including a feeling of teamwork.


"This is a really good way to give back to the communities we serve, and to come together as a team," said HRIS Analyst Andrew Calhoun. "One moment that really resonated with me was when I took a second to stop and look around the room and saw the entire group working as a team. For one day, we weren't from different departments, we weren't supervisors or supervisees; we were all equals with a common job title – volunteer."

 

 

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LEAD IS SERIOUS BUSINESS

At Aqua, public health protection is a cornerstone of our business. That’s why we take lead very seriously. As part of our efforts, we are supporting the national effort to raise awareness about lead poisoning prevention during National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week. The question is what can the average person do to prevent lead in their drinking water? 

Believe it or not, the average person, and especially the homeowner, can do a lot. Lead is not in the water delivered to your home. Lead in drinking water actually originates in the pipe (owned by the property owner) from the street to the home and/or in the home plumbing pipe, solder, and plumbing fixtures inside the home. 

Aqua actually works hard to make sure the water chemistry we deliver to your street is not corrosive to help protect your plumbing, but every home is unique and can have specific issues beyond our control.

So let’s start with a couple simple things you can do, as well as some specific recommendations for renters. Remember let’s get the lead out!

 

1. Don’t cook, make baby formula, or drink from hot water. Lead can be more easily dissolved into warm water. Therefore, use cold water for your drinking and food preparation, especially baby formula and baby food. 

2. Replace old faucets with new water saving and lead-free faucets. Did you know old faucets can have up to 6 percent lead in the brass inside them? We find old faucets with brass containing lead to be a big reason for why there are elevated levels when we sample at peoples homes.

3. Remove and clean your faucet aerators every month. Every faucet has a little screen on it called an aerator to make the water come out nicely. You can remove it, clean it, or replace it in most cases.

4. Get your home tested for lead! You can contact your local health department to ask if they can help you test for lead.

5. Do you have a lead service line from the street into your home? This is something you can check. If you scratch the pipe that is coming INTO your water meter, you can get a rough idea if its lead or not. If you scratch it easily and it looks the color of a nickel, it may be lead. If it looks like a penny, it’s copper. Click here to learn more. If you want, once you scratch the section, you can even use a simple home test kit for $20 and check it yourself. If you still are not sure, contact your water supplier and/or your local plumber for confirmation/investigation. If you can’t access your meter,then look at the age of your home. Some areas of the U.S. used lead service lines until 1955. If your house is pre-1955, then it’s a potential candidate for inspection/check. 

6. If you have a lead service line, remove it! Don’t wait, contact a plumber and have it removed. If a water supplier is doing work and informs you that your service line is lead, get it replaced! Get the lead out!

7. Does your home plumbing have lead solder? If your home was built prior to 1988, it may have lead solder. Sometimes, do-it-yourself homeowners would do plumbing repairs using left-over lead solder after 1988. We have actually found large globs of lead solder in home plumbing below faucets that were replaced a long time ago. See #5 above on the test kit. 

8. Use a home filtration device if you want added protection. If you can’t do any of items above and are not sure if you have a lead service line, can’t remove the line (you might be renting), or want extra protection, a home filtration device may be your best option. See the information here from the National Sanitation foundation on how to select the proper device

9. If you are a renter, ask your property manager if they have a lead service line, if they tested the property for lead in the water, or to have the property water tested for lead. If you cannot get the property manager to provide the information, your local water utility might have information. If they do not and you cannot get the water tested and are still concerned, we recommend following item #8. You can also contact your local health department to ask if they can help you test for lead.

 

 

In conclusion, lead is serious business. As a parent, I know the worries we have about the things that can impact our children. Follow the advice above and lead in drinking water won’t be one of them.

 

For more information about preventing lead poisoning not only in drinking water but from paint and dirt, click here.

 

 

 

 

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