Water companies reduce complaints – but is it enough?
Are water companies truly committed to customer service?
This week’s report by The Consumer Council for Water, CCWater, suggests that progress has been made but with over 120,000 customer complaints made in 2013 and 2014, can the industry really celebrate?
On the plus side, the CCW reported an 18% reduction in customer complaints in 2014 – the 6th year complaints have fallen. This progress is to be congratulated as the commitment of water companies to get it ‘right first time’ more often for customers seems to be paying off in the form of improved service.
However, an overwhelming 123,218 complaints were still made during 2013/2014, with over half of these complaints relating to billing and charges. One in five customers admitted to not being able to afford their bills.
Even with deregulation on the agenda, a number of companies fell behind:
- Complaintsrosefor Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water, Severn Trent Water, South West Water and Affinity Water during this period.
- Southern Water and South East Water continue to be ranked as the worst performers due to the proportional level of complaints they received. Southern Water receivedtwicethe number of complaints as the industry average. Both companies have provided recovery plans to cut the number of complaints they receive going forward with intentions of improving their bills or billing systems.
- On the other end of the scale, Thames Water and Wessex Water were both hailed for their improvements with Wessex Water, alongside Portsmouth Water and Cambridge Water, remaining the best performing water companies.
CCW has some stern words for under-performers and “has continually called for the regulator to hit any poor performing company with tougher penalties when it falls short of customers’ expectations.
This sends a clear message to a water company’s management (and their investors) that their current levels of service are not acceptable.”
Today, water companies have the opportunity to get on the right side of regulation, and take advantage of newly competitive markets. But first, they need to truly commit to uncovering and prioritising the real needs of customers.
The value of listening to your customers cannot be understated.
At Maru/Syngro we specialise in helping B2C and B2B companies alike profit from Voice of the Customer programmes. Our customer experience management technology enables our global clients to uncover the root causes of customer dissatisfaction and identify trends in real time customer feedback to drive the right actions, boost advocacy and keep more customers.
The pressure is on water companies, and utility companies in general, to retain customers.