A spike in complaints to the Consumer Council for Water – mostly relating to the business retail market – meant it struggled to meet its targets on closing complaints in 2018/19 – and for the first time in recent years.
In its annual review for 2018-19 published last week, the water watchdog reported it had received 17% more complaints than the previous year. Household complaints were up 4%, but most of the increase concerned complaints from businesses.
While CC Water beat its 99.5% target for complaint acknowledgement with five working days by 0.2%, it fell short of its 80% target to close complaints within 20 working days (achieving 76.4%) and its 91% target to close cases within 40 working days (achieving 88.7%). It explained: “The increase in complaints that we experienced throughout 2018/19 left us with a backlog, despite bringing in additional resource. It took us until the third quarter to get back on an even keel, which affected our closure targets and customer satisfaction with our service.”
It further explained: “We exceeded our target for customer satisfaction with our courtesy but were disappointed to fall short with overall satisfaction with service, complaint outcome and speed. However, the work we undertook during the first half of the year, including having more flexibility to quickly adjust our workforce, ensured that satisfaction with our service increased from September 2018 onwards. By the final quarter of the year we were exceeding our business plan target for satisfaction with the quality of our overall service and also saw an improvement across other measures. That means we have a strong platform to meet or potentially exceed our targets in the coming year.”
Elsewhere, the annual review listed CC Water’s many achievements in the last year. These included:
£19m savings for the households that used its water meter calculator to see if they might be better off switching to a measured supply.
£10m in welfare benefits identified for thousands of struggling households who used its benefits calculator.
£2m in financial redress for consumers who sought its help resolving a complaint.
533,000 low-income houses receiving lower bills after it worked with water companies to boost take-up of social tariffs by 36%.