Level of Service Goals
The mission statement guides the development of a system’s or department’s level of service goals. Level of service goals should define what customers and employees can expect from their water, wastewater or stormwater system. These goals are a way to communicate with stakeholders about progress in implementing a system’s plan, demonstrate ongoing commitment to the community vision, encourage accountability, and suggest course corrections that can help ensure continued progress toward the mission. Some goals will offer win-win solutions and unlock a number of benefits by tackling several problems at once. For example, the co-benefits provided by a green infrastructure installation may not be part of the initial goal but will likely still be something the community cares about. It is important to communicate those co-benefits. As with the mission statement, larger systems with distinct departments or programs should consider having level of service goals for each department. These goals will typically fall into set categories, and water, wastewater and stormwater departments may find significant overlap in the categories.
Level of service goals should be a combination of internal goals and external goals. Internal goals are those goals that define system operations, but are not easily understood by system customers, while external goals are items that directly impact customers. Developing external goals provides a great opportunity for system staff to have conversations with customers to understand their priorities and the level of service they expect. Including customers in the development of goals helps ensure that implementation addresses the desires and concerns of residents and businesses in the community, and that the operations align with customer expectations. Goals should not be focused solely on the short-term. For green assets, the desired service capacity can take months or years or even decades to achieve. Slow growing assets like forests take years to reach desired service, and systems should include long-term goals to reflect this.
Developing Level of Service goals can be challenging. High quality goals must be meaningful, consistent, useful, unique and most importantly measurable. Without the ability to measure a goal there is no way to communicate progress to the community or assess whether the system’s actions are having the desired result. Measurable goals will require systems to collect data to track goal performance and create key performance indicators (KPI) to delineate success and failure. Because of the time and effort that will go into tracking goals and developing KPIsKey Performance Indicators, systems should be realistic in the number of goals they set. These goals should be simple and expanded only when solid data or metrics are available.