Inform, enable, incentivise: changing how we think about the customer

Ofwat Thought Leadership Visual Minutes
Ofwat’s Thought Leadership event was captured in visual minutes. Click the image to expand.

On 13 July, more than 60 people attended Ofwat’s Thought Leadership event, high above London with panoramic views from the 29th floor of Millbank Tower – the aptly named Altitude 360.

The event was organised to support our customer engagement policy statement and expectations for our 2019 price review. It aimed to encourage more effective engagement and collaboration with customers and communities through different and innovative perspectives.

Cathryn Ross, Ofwat’s Chief Executive, set the tone from the beginning:

“Today is not about regulation and price reviews – it is about the customer.”

Senior leaders from water companies, customer challenge groups, active third parties and academic institutions came to the event with delegates told little of what to expect ahead of time. That was very deliberate. We wanted all to arrive free of preconceived and fixed ideas so that they had space to think anew and be inspired.

The delegates listened to a range of speakers including:

  • Alex Neill from Which? who spoke about the importance of developing customer trust in the sector and how other sectors had managed to achieve high levels of trust
  • Professor Robert Hahn from the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at the University of Oxford discussed how behavioural economics can be used to affect customers’ decisions and the importance of trialling to develop the best approach
  • Dr Kat Austen from iilab then considered citizen and community engagement as ways of empowering and co-creating and co-delivering solutions
  • John Drummond from Corporate Culture explained why behavioural economics is a useful tool in developing a commercial strategy and the importance of understanding how customers make decisions when companies want to effect a behaviour change.

Delegates were presented with different approaches to engagement throughout the day. They were encouraged to think beyond water and about how customers think, feel, believe and act more generally and consider how other sectors have successfully engaged customers.

“the most innovative, thought provoking event Ofwat has held”

The day included interactive sessions highlighting the differences and similarities in perceptions about water, based on personal compared with professional perspectives, and performing a behavioural and motivational analysis which companies can use to consider how to achieve behaviour change.

The Thought Leadership event concluded with a very lively ‘Question Time’ style panel. Panel member Jacob Tompkins from Waterwise described the event as, “the most thought provoking and inspirational event Ofwat had ever held”.

The need to understand your customers was a central topic and Sarah Bentley, another panel member and Chief Customer Officer from Severn Trent, highlighted the need to reach people in different ways to inform them about water use or misuse and enable them to act if companies hope to promote greater water efficiency. Sarah highlighted the need to avoid assuming specific knowledge or behaviours of those not professionally engaged with the water industry.

From cartoons of the speakers and illustrative pictures to key messages, the day’s discussion was captured in visual minutes – in-keeping with the creative and innovative focus of the day.

If you would like any further information about the Thought Leadership event please contact Helen.RobinsonGordon@ofwat.gsi.gov.uk.