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022: Communication-the Baseline for Conservation with Robb Barnitt, CEO and Founder of Dropcountr

Robb Barnitt is the Founder and Chief Executive at Dropcountr, a water SaaS (software-as-a-service) company that transforms data into actionable information for utility staff and their customers.

Robb has spent his career working at the intersection of technology and sustainability in roles with Arthur D. Little, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and several Silicon Valley startups.  He holds a Masters degree in Engineering from Stanford and an MBA from UC-Berkeley.

Top Takeaways:

  1. The water sector has amazing committed people. They want to do something meaningful. This extends to the technology-oriented folks–developers and engineers. For those young professionals that want to make a difference, there’s a lot to like about the water industry. 
  2. Customers view water utilities on the same level as the other utilities they communicate with regularly. They expect a higher level of service and access such as real-time alerts regarding usage thresholds, leaks, and bill notification.
  3. Access to information isn’t just about bill pay and water usage. It also provides utilities the ability to communicate about other areas of concern for customers such as hydrant flushing. Robb gives a case study on Dedham Westwood Water District outside of Boston. 
  4. At the 2018 WaterSmart Innovations Conference: Dropcountr, Rogue Water and Alliance for Water Efficiency are teaming up to discuss the importance of communicating with your Spanish speaking population in your community. A more complete inclusivity requires delivery of information in a language that’s preferred by the customer. If you want to educate and develop that relationship then you need to be speaking the same language. Whether Spanish is a requirement or just a preference, it’s a pretty nice gesture. It’s more than a translated website, you can actively engage in the culture. 

“Strive to be more than a vendor, be an industry participant.” Robb Barnitt, Founder and Chief Executive at Dropcountr

Resources:

Conscious Capitalism: the Heroic Spirit of Business by John Mackey and Raj Sisodia

Tech resources:

Tech Crunch

Hacker News

Maven’s Notebook

Survey:

JD Power Survey

Sponsor:

Master Meter Inc delivers game-changing results for you across Finance, Customer Service, and Utility Operations. They offer an array of products to meet your utility’s needs. Check out their free ebook on financing smart water solutions here.

Show notes:

[4:20] Robb’s origin story, from rural America to water tech startup CEO.

[8:45] Why is it important to be in the water sector, in this moment?

[11:30] How is technology helping to bring utilities into the digital age with their customers?

[12:50] Case study from Dedham Westwood Water District about communicating with customers regarding hydrant flushing.

[17:08] The importance of communicating with your Spanish speaking community.

[21:25] How water tech startups can play a role in bringing the next generation to the water industry.

[25:00] Robb’s guiding principles aka core values and Arianne forgetting ours.

[30:00] Robb gives more case studies of communication positively impacting communities in Folsom and Denver.

[34:50] Upcoming research on the impact of different messaging over time.

[38:15] Stephanie’s soapbox on how the private and public sectors can work together to ensure that what’s being created is truly solving a problem that utilities can use to move forward.

[40:23] We quiz Robb on where his water comes from and how his own water provider is doing.


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