Customers are participants, not recipients, says Ofwat

On Thursday, Ofwat shared with the industry its vision for putting the customer at the heart of a sustainable water sector through customer participation.

The regulator launched its Tapped In report, co-created with Corporate Culture, and held a full day meeting to discuss the rationale for and process of moving away from perceiving customers as passive recipients of water services to seeing them as active participants who sit right in the middle of the water value chain.

Tapped In highlights four strategic areas of action to increase customer participation, “each with its own objectives, engagement techniques and principles for delivery”. These are:

  • Futures: customer participation to improve current and future sustainability.

  • Action: customer behaviour change actions, including saving water and helping to reduce sewer blockages.

  • Community: community ownership of particular aspects of water as an essential resource.

  • Experience: increasing customer control of water in their home or of the customer service experience.

Many speakers from outside the sector were brought in to inspire and share their learnings. The report itself provides examples of customer participation and co-creation in action; maps the journey water companies need to go on; and points out the cultural adjustments needed as well as the practical delivery path.

While not prescriptive, Ofwat has thrown down a clear customer participation challenge for water companies for PR19 and beyond.