Saturday, July 2, 2022

Southlake Water Utilities Serves Customers By Getting Things Done

In the old days, Kyle Flanagan couldn’t get a good night’s sleep in July and August. The water system was relatively new and hot-month, high demand meant he needed to monitor system data so water use didn’t overwhelm supply. This was especially true in early morning hours when irrigation systems kicked on.

With the buildout of the water system, things are a little easier, but Flanagan’s commitment remains steadfast.

“My goal is for our team to achieve great customer service through friendly, personal communication. We want our customers to receive the highest quality of drinking water possible,” says Flanagan.

Over the years, he’s proven that he’ll do what it takes to get the job done, not an easy task when 2.8 billion gallons of water are consumed in Southlake annually.

The system has steadily been improved, making its management less stressful. Over $41 million has been invested in water infrastructure in the past ten years, improving capacity and water quality. Additionally, the City has invested in technology to help pinpoint water leaks, and empower customers to monitor their own usage and costs.

“In 2015 we began our journey to implement a one of a kind program to equip all 10,000+ water meters with the latest cellular communications technology.” Flanagan proudly noted.

“BEACON Advanced Metering Analytics allows our utility to collect meter readings through the cellular network and provide customers with near real-time data on their consumption. Today, 100% of all water accounts are tied into this network at no additional cost,” he continued, pointing out that the cellular technology implementation is one of his team’s proudest accomplishments.

“All of the construction and technology projects, public information, and one-on-one contacts have been undertaken with one thing in mind,” said Director of Public Works Rob Cohen. “Kyle and his team are committed to providing outstanding service to our water utility customers.”

Flanagan, who has been known to visit with customers in their homes, sees the personal touch as an effective way for the City and water users to work together.

“He really cares about people and their situations, and he’s willing to go the extra mile to help,” said his supervisor Cristina McMurray. “The crew has great technical skills, but it’s their attention to the customer that sets them apart.”

Water customer Esther Spickler gives the team the ultimate compliment, “they are awesome!” The crew had noted a potential leak at a property she owns and reached out to the realtor whose name was on the “For Lease” sign. Not only did Ms. Spickler appreciate the communication effort, she worked with the team to shut off the water and meet her on site to discuss next steps. Spickler said, “It was to my relief, very quick and easy to accomplish.”

Southlake Water Utilities Operations Team (l to r): Tim Hackrott, Bobby Hardin,
David Chancey, Jason Camblin, Anthony Blain, Kyle Flanagan, Chad Henderson,
Andy Dumas, Kurt Long, Jerod Lawrence, Rudy Ramirez, and Greg Spinks

Flanagan’s crew works closely with strong partners in the Southlake Water Utilities (SWU) customer service office, led by Misty Knaust. The customer service team processes service applications; manages SWU billing; and troubleshoots customer issues.

Knaust agrees that technology upgrades have been instrumental in improving customer service. She has implemented a paperless environment, easing customer paperwork requirements and making information available electronically.

“Those who might be pressed for time find an easier and more productive process as we satisfy their immediate needs, in seconds, instead of hours,” said Knaust.

And she agrees with Flanagan that the cellular technology has been a game changer.

“Cellular connections and the easy-to-use Eye on Water application help customers successfully monitor their water usage,” she said. “It’s a great tool, and the staff is now able to reach out to customers as a courtesy, notifying them of a possible leak on their property as a proactive service we provide. Efficiency gains have also allowed us to provide an email notification to customers, when needed, to prevent possible disconnection.”

About 19% of Southlake customers are currently signed up to use the app, a number Knaust would like to see grow.

“We are proud of the customer service benefits this accomplishment has delivered,” she said.

Southlake’s Chief Financial Officer Sharen Jackson has praise for Knaust and her team, noting that “they manage the financial side of the business very well while working to ensure a great customer experience.”

Jackson cites Knaust’s leadership and appreciation of process improvement. “Using lean/six sigma techniques, they’ve been able to improve cycle times and customer satisfaction by critically evaluating what they do, and why.”

Water customers count on Southlake Water Utilities to provide them with safe and reliable drinking water. With Flanagan and Knaust leading the way, the water utilities staff teams are successfully delivering a high quality, high-value product…all while serving the customers with care and consideration.

Southlake Water Utilities Customer Service Team (l to r): DeeAnn Yates,
Cheryl Cooper, Kealoha Vaipulu, and Misty Knaust