Putting water customers at the centre of water company services


Author: Rachel Wright, Principal

CLC blog 1

We know that water is critically important to everyone’s lives – even if it’s not always at the top of your mind.

If you live in England and Wales, who provides your water (and who takes away your wastewater) is decided by where you live. Most business customers in Wales are also unable to shop around for their retailer. We are therefore consulting on introducing new regulatory requirements on companies to deliver high standards of customer service.

We know water companies could serve you better

Across England and Wales many people are satisfied with the customer services they receive from their water company (or companies – if they have different suppliers for water and wastewater). And there are many examples of where water companies and their staff are going above and beyond for their customers.

But there are also many instances where customers feel let down. For example:

  • Companies failing to support and communicate with customers or manage complaints and compensation fairly when things go wrong,
  • Repeated failures, where water companies aren’t learning from their, or others, mistakes, which result in customer detriment – or foreseeing and acting quickly enough to meet customers’ diversity of needs, and
  • Many people have lost trust in water companies and don’t feel they have their customers’ interests at heart.

Ofwat wants to change water companies’ licences to get them to do better

We expect to see high standards of customer service and support for the full diversity of customer needs across the water sector.

That is why we are planning to introduce new regulatory requirements on how companies treat their customers, including customers in vulnerable circumstances, in the form of a new licence condition for each water company in England and Wales.

The change to their licence 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.

We’ll 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 force them to improve or fine them.

We think the change will benefit you, other customers… everyone

When we carried out research with customers on what they’d like the new licence condition to do, they told us about good and bad experiences they’d had with their water companies. And the most important thing for them in future was companies consistently getting the basics right for everyone, no matter what their personal circumstances may be.

We think the new licence condition will drive big changes in how your water company treats you, no matter what your circumstances. And not just if you need to speak to them about your bill – but every time you and they meet.

Help us help you: tell us what you think

We’re consulting on the new customer-focused licence condition until Friday 7 July and we welcome your views on how companies can improve their customer service. Please send these to [email protected].