Universal metering a "quiet success" but communications could improve outcomes

The main lessons learned from consumers’ experiences during the “quiet success” of Southern Water’s universal metering programme could be addressed by “better tailored communications” according to a report by the water firm and the Consumer Council for Water (CC Water).

The report included a list the top five “must have” to give customers a positive experience of having their water supply metered.

  1. Informing customers on how the installation process works and what the impact wile other bills.

  2. Explaining to customers who for practical reasons were unable to have a meter installed why it was not installed and what happens next.

  3. A mixture of communications including written advice, helplines and face-to-face meetings.

  4. Face-to-face engagement with people who avoid having a meter installed.

  5. Disengaged customers who were unaware of metering or felt it was for someone else to deal with –typically their landlord – need communications via an intermediary such as their landlord or community representatives.

The study found that the impact of the water saving advice and devices was limited. A small “environmentally aware” group of affluent, people emerged who had been motivated by environmental concerns to save water prior to metering. And another small set were identified as motivated to save water due to initial concerns about bill increases. But this group failed to maintain water saving behaviour when the bill savings they failed to realise the savings they had anticipated.

According to the report, the overall attitude from customers towards metering was to view it as a “progressive necessity” and an “equitable method of billing.”