Water water everywhere...

According to the At Home with Water report from The Energy Saving Trust, the average home uses nearly 350 litres of water every day while, every year, more than 740 billion litres, enough to fill 300,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools, is flushed down the toilet. Added to this, of course, we all take it for granted that we can fill a glass with water.

Yet, most of us give very little thought to how water arrives and leaves our house. Even fewer of us could claim to feel engaged with our water supplier but that might be changing…

Over recent years, Ofwat has been putting increasing pressure on water companies to perform, on top of the other challenges they are facing, such as an ageing infrastructure. 

This year, as part of Ofwat’s 2019 Price Review, it has introduced something called Customer Measure of Experience (or C-MeX). This measures four key areas – customer service, customer experience, net promoter score and complaint handling. 

This was followed on 8 October 2019 by the unveiling of a new strategy to help transform water company performance, meet long-term challenges and embed public purpose into the sector, so that it ‘can improve life through water now and in the future’.

Developed after a year of listening, during which time Ofwat spoke face-to-face with more than 250 different organisations and members of the public, the strategy focuses on how Ofwat can help deliver the things that matter most to people. That includes improving the environment, securing affordable bills, delivering resilient, reliable and high-quality services, and seeing companies act in the long-term interests of society and the environment.

Informed by those conversations, and to meet those ends, Ofwat has set three strategic goals:

To transform water companies’ performance for customers,
To drive water companies to meet long-term challenges through increased collaboration and partnerships, and
For water companies to serve a wider public purpose, delivering more for customers, society and the environment.

Rachel Fletcher, Chief Executive at Ofwat, said: “Our strategy sets out an ambitious agenda of change for the water sector and describes how Ofwat will evolve and work differently. By transforming company performance, acting to meet the long-term needs of society and environment, and embedding a public purpose into water companies, we can deliver a legacy to be proud of, and one which improves life through water.”

Research has shown that people expect their water company to add value to their local community and improve the environment – not simply just deliver water and, in some cases, take it away again. 

In an example of connecting with their local community, one water company has developed a partnership with Swim England, which now supports up to 35,000 children a year to benefit by using pools involved in the scheme. 

Of course, the link between swimming and water is an obvious one, but it’s been a great way of the water company getting its name in front of its customers in a positive way. Any improvement in customer experience is a good thing. 

When it comes to using websites and social media to engage with customers, water companies are increasingly getting used to having content ready to share when the weather hots up or cools down. When households experience freezing temperatures, some consumers could be affected by frozen pipes, so hints and tips are shared ahead of predicted cool snaps to help them avoid this. At the other extreme, a hot spell always brings worries about hosepipe bans, so sharing water saving ideas is a sensible idea ahead of anticipated sunny periods. 

While we are all being told to drink more, the majority of us understand that water is a precious commodity, so it also makes sense for water companies to also share hints and tips on saving water, such as smart ideas for keeping the garden watered, while also offering customers easy ways to report any issues. 

Equally, if customers are on water meters and experience a spike in water usage – resulting in a higher bill – some utility companies send ideas for saving water via multiple-channels, perhaps an email or on an app. 

Others are doing things to engage with the community, including launching portals where customers can report leaks and view an interactive map which monitors leaks. This is arguably an easier system for many customers, than having to make a phone call. 

Other utility firms, have launched apps, which offer customers the opportunity to manage their account online, view the work which the utility is doing in their area and monitor events with a ‘watch list’. 

If you’d like to hear more about how we work with utility companies to drive a better customer experience, call our team at Lake Solutions today.

Article Details

Ian Jepp
22 January 2020