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  • by Karma Loveday

Customers say service is more important than environment

Customers consider water company activities that will affect them personally and directly as most important, with service aspects with immediate impact or consequences a higher priority than those with consequences in a more distant future.

This emerged from research undertaken jointly by CCW and Ofwat to understand what matters to customers and how far this is reflected in the common Performance Commitments (PCs) being considered for water companies at PR24.

Customers ranked water company activities for importance and impact. The results put the likes of supply interruptions and the appearance of water as a higher customer priority than issues like biodiversity, carbon and pollution. Customers put storm overflows – soon to be the subject of multi-billion pound spending under Government policy – in the lowest category for importance and impact (see table).

CCW and Ofwat said the findings would inform the development of PCs at PR24. One interesting element was that customers were found to be tolerant towards service interruptions where warning is given and developments communicated well. The report noted: "This may open up the possibility of companies using more low carbon solutions to reduce leakage, that may require longer interruption times.”

Insights from the research on how metrics are understood and activities best articulated will also shape the design of research to inform Outcome Delivery Incentive rates and wider communications. The study found, for instance, that descriptions that focus on customer impact rather than on process or infrastructure go down

better with customers.

Finally, the results will be used to inform wider aspects of the next price review. The report noted Ofwat will be consulting on the introduction of a customer focused licence condition, which will also take into account the findings on customer preferences.

The study used focus groups and in-depth interviews with a total of 84 participants in England and Wales.


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