We all want excellent service
Last week marked National Customer Service Week, a week long celebration of the importance of service excellence organised by the Institute of Customer Service.
All of us want excellent service no matter what we buy. Nowhere is this more important than water. Not just because we all need it every day, but also because most people can’t shop around like they can for other goods and services. And yet the utilities sector – which includes energy and water – is consistently is at the bottom of the league table for customer satisfaction. Given the importance of water to our every day lives, shouldn’t they be one of the best?
Excellent service for all water customers every day
Last week Ofwat received the plans for each company on the services, investment and prices they propose for 2025-30. We are pushing for a step change in performance and investment in the sector to drive improvements for the environment and customers. We will be forensically checking and challenging those plans to encourage companies to deliver the best deal for customers over the next five years. But customers and their expectations can change a lot over five years: just think of what has happened since 2018. We want water companies constantly striving to do deliver excellent service for all their customers.
That is why to complement our other tools including price reviews, earlier this year we asked for views on a change in water companies’ licences to put customers at the centre of water companies’ services. The proposed change will mean each company will need to make sure:
- Customers are well informed at all stages of the customer journey,
- When something does go wrong, customers can rely on their company to put it right; and
- The full diversity of customers’ needs are identified, understood and met by companies in the services and extra help they provide.
The proposed change would also mean we will be able to set new rules in areas where companies need to improve their customer service offering. And if companies don’t stick to those rules we can fine them.
We were delighted that water companies and customer representatives supported our proposal for the licence condition in their responses to our first consultation from. We also received some useful feedback to help improve the clarity of the licence condition wording, which will benefit everyone.
Tell us your final views on the customer-focused licence condition: by 23 November
We’ve now published our legal consultation on the customer-focused licence condition. The closing date for telling us your final views is 23 November.
While we’re not able to use the licence condition yet – we’re currently consulting on new guidance for water companies setting out how they should support their customers who require extra help in accessing water services. And over the summer we published a compliance review that showed companies are taking action to comply or go beyond our minimum expectations set out in our Paying fair guidelines. Showing our approach to delivering excellent service is already beginning to work. We expect companies to be readying themselves for the new licence condition.
Depending on the responses we receive to our final consultation, we plan to change companies licences in 2024. Moving everyone one step closer towards higher standards of customer service in water.