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  • by Karma Loveday

Watchdog presses for transparency and collaboration on customer engagement

CCW has made three main recommendations to water companies on how to strengthen the customer voice in business planning and business as usual.


The recomendations

1. It must be clear how engagement informs the business plan so the extent of consumer influence is transparent. “Companies should set out where and how engagement has shaped their business plans. If it is not possible to act on the outputs – for example if a novel or explorative approach hasn’t delivered as envisaged – it should be clear how this has been learnt from and these learnings should be shared across the industry.”


2. More focus on business as usual engagement with business planning less of a trigger, especially for those in vulnerable circumstances. “At PR19, research into performance commitments was sometimes bundled with related service experiences and aspirations. But some things should not wait for a business plan trigger, particularly understanding people in vulnerable circumstances or who may benefit from more inclusive services. We want to see more of this as business as usual, not just around performance commitment monitoring, but as a wider programme of meaningful engagement to improve services and understand needs outside of business planning.”


3. More collaborative research on shared challenges to support innovation, reduce the research gap between smaller and larger companies, and introduce consistency in research outputs to support regulation. “A customer is a customer wherever they are – more collaborative research would help the industry develop a deeper understanding of attitudes, behaviours and the communications that can influence these. If water companies work together on innovation in research and engagement – to share experiences and learning points – it reduces the risk from failure by spreading costs and resources across multiple companies, and enables companies with smaller resource bases to not be left behind – which benefits consumers and supports the advancement of the industry.”


The recommendations came in a CCW report setting out its view of consumer engagement at PR19. The watchdog noted there had been a step change in the quantity of engagement since PR14, but said: “However, this has not necessarily led to an equal step change in the strength of influence that consumers have had on company business plans, because it is not always clear how engagement has informed business plans.”

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