This article looks at the role water regulators can play to ensure water distribution companies improve their services for consumer satisfaction through the adoption of consumer-centric, innovative and digitised business models.
The introduction of the Customer Measure of Experience (C-MeX) in Ofwat’s price review (PR19) will push water companies to put customers at the centre of their business. C-MeX will measure four key areas: customer service, customer experience, Net Promoter Score (NPS) and complaint handling.
Today’s consumers are empowered: they know what they want, where they want it and when they want it. The arrival of C-MeX reflects the reality of modern-day consumers wants.
The transparency and tailored experiences provided by the likes of Uber, Deliveroo, and Amazon are leading consumers to expect the same from all service providers they engage with, including water.
C-MeX replaces the Survey Incentive
Mechanism (SIM), originally introduced in 2010. SIM was set to provide reputational and financial incentive to encourage water companies to provide better customer
service to household customers. Since its introduction, SIM has improved customer experiences but as customer experience in the wider market moves forward, so must the measurement metrics. SIM has a few key weaknesses:
Moving away from its monopoly
The water sector may have had a monopoly but a single industry focus on customer experience isn’t enough. The time has come for the industry to deliver better customer experiences as seen in other sectors. The SIM customer service measure only compares water companies against one another and doesn’t incentivise to reach higher levels of customer service as seen in other industry sectors. In the same way that consumers translate their service experiences from one industry to another, for the first time the C-MeX will directly compare the water sector to other industries.
When it comes to service appointments consumers want to be able to select the time and date that suits them and be able to track the arrival and status of the service, to cause the least disruption to their day. The water sector will now be compared to app born services like Uber and Deliveroo. If the water industry adopts the same individual-centric approach as these services it will be set to increase customer satisfaction and engagement, as well as improve efficiencies within the sector.
Behind the times
The utilities sector is currently in a transitional period, moving from a commodities business model to a service model. Within a service business model the customer’s needs are placed at the centre and in today’s digital era technology plays a huge part in delivering great services.
The inflexible communication channels provided by the sector do not reflect today’s communication technology and consumers’ interaction preferences. Our research with YouGov revealed the extreme anxiety consumers experience not being kept up to date about service appointments. With C-MeX, water companies will be measured on their digital communication offering and will need to offer five communication channels, including at least three online channels, to receive contacts and complaints.
With customer needs changing by the day, sometimes by the minute, services need to be flexible and available on a variety of platforms. Consumers want convenience and this may mean monitoring an upcoming appointment out and about on their mobile, tablet or in the future via virtual assistants and smartwatches. Companies today must become individual-centric and quickly learn to stay one step ahead of consumers’ ever-changing expectations in order to deliver highly personal and individualised levels of service.
Lessons from the energy sector
The energy sector is moving towards being more customer-centred and has seen significant benefits. Introducing smart meters and price comparison services like uSwitch has given new power and control to consumers. Consumers only need their postcode and a recent energy bill, to switch gas and electricity supplier when they want. Choice, control and transparency for consumers can lead to higher engagement levels, providing the opportunity for utility companies to build trust and create better overall experiences.
According to ForeSee’s 2018 Utilities CX Insights report, 80% of customers would ditch the call centre if provided with the right online experience. With government talks around compulsory water meters for all UK households taking place, the water industry needs to efficiently fit water meters to hundreds and thousands of homes.
Utilising technology could be the saving grace for the sector.
British Gas: ‘On My Way’
British Gas uses Localz, and have developed their customer experience platform. Together, we’ve seen failed appointments due to no-access fall by up to 17%. “On my way” communication advises customers of their engineer’s live ETA, enabling them to track their approach on a real-time map and interact directly with their engineer when required. Not only does this level of communication prevent customer no-shows and enable appointment rescheduling, but it gives them the freedom to get on with the school run, or pop out for an emergency shop, without fear of missing their engineer.
With a water meter rollout on the cards and the C-MeX coming into play, the water sector has a real opportunity to learn from the energy sector. Talking to the customer in their preferred channel, offering more choice, control and transparency will dramatically improve customer experiences in the industry. Not only will customers benefit from improved service levels but water companies will seriously improve in their operational efficiency. SEI
About the author
Emma Lampert is a head of customer success at Localz with 10 years of change and success experience in retail, logistics and field services. Currently focussed on last mile software for field services, Emma and the success team at Localz are delivering first-time happiness by reducing appointment anxiety and delivering happiness.
Prior to joining Localz, Emma delivered large scale people, process and software change for John Lewis & Partners.