In its most recent price review (PR19), Ofwat introduced the Customer Measure of Experience (C-MeX). This challenged the water sector to deliver a better customer experience while also increasing efficiency.
To prepare for the upcoming PR24, the regulator is asking companies to take advantage of new technologies that increase productivity and reduce costs.
But what exactly counts as exceptional customer experience? And how can water companies enhance customer service, while also creating efficiency savings?
This article looks at residential water appointments and smart meter installations. We’ll show how comparable sectors are enhancing the day of service, and ask how you can apply these lessons to improve customers’ experience of water appointments.
Across the utility sector, customer expectations are changing - and providers know that it’s time for the industry to catch up.
Consumers don’t simply benchmark their utility providers against one another. Rather, they expect the same level of service they receive from Amazon, DPD, or their bank. Digital communications and operational transparency have become the norm.
The UK water regulator recognises this, stating that:
“Service in other sectors is increasingly personalised and digitally enabled. Many useful innovations have been developed by the supply chain, other sectors and in other countries, which can be adapted to the benefit of water customers.”
So what does this mean for water service appointments?
It means that we expect providers to show us our appointment progress in real-time - just like a parcel or a pizza delivery. Real-time tracking and two-way communications have moved from “nice-to-have” to “must-have” additions to your toolkit.
By taking advantage of readily available technology, water providers can exceed customer expectations and reduce operational costs. Comparable sectors are already reaping the rewards of automated notifications, technician tracking, and customer communications.
As more households started to favour green energy, OVO Energy saw a spike in demand for smart meters. In order to provide an efficient service, the company streamlined its communications platform to reduce friction for customers.
To make this a reality, the company opted for location and communication technology provided by Localz.
Engineers can now send a one-click notification when they're on their way to a property. The resident receives an SMS, email or push notification with a real-time ETA and a link to a live tracking map.
Customers can reply to the notification, with the response routed directly to the engineer or to a contact centre, depending on business rules.
The solution has increased first-time access rates, reduced “Where’s my technician?” calls, and contributed to an increase in overall customer satisfaction.
Ovo’s customers say:
“I work from home so I really appreciated being sent the reminder notifications so I can pop out when I need to. The level of service I received from OVO is better than most delivery and other similar services I have used. Information of arrival time [...] was a great level of customer service and it definitely made for a positive experience for me.”
Similar technology could facilitate the rollout of environmentally friendly water meters, as well as making appointment-based visits more efficient and convenient.
By following this example, water providers stand to make customers’ lives easier, as well as reducing inbound call volumes.
Clarion Housing is the UK’s largest housing association, owning and managing 125,000 homes. The organisation aims to continually improve customer satisfaction while embracing technology to improve operational efficiency.
Clarion recognised that reporting a repair is already an anxious process, and the traditional four- to five-hour ETA window left customers stressed out on the day of the job.
If a technician was caught in traffic or running late, that led to increased anxiety and more calls to the contact centre. Even when a customer reached a call centre operative, the team member often could not provide a more accurate arrival window.
By providing customers with control and transparency on the day of service, the solution effectively removes much of the stress surrounding repair appointments. Customers are happier, and there is less need to phone the support centre.
The management dashboard increases visibility so that office staff can effectively respond to remaining chase calls.
Rob Lane, Group Commercial Director at Clarion Housing Group, stated:
“As we gradually reinstate our repairs service following the COVID 19 lockdown, clear and timely communication with our customers is more important than ever. With additional safety measures in place, On My Way allows our customers to track their appointment and communicate directly with the operative to prepare for the visit and helps our operatives to set safe working expectations in advance of their arrival. We believe that this technology will give our customers an improved experience as we start to open up more routine appointments.”
Water appointments share many similarities with the property repairs scenario described above.
When you're sending a mobile worker to a customer's home, the resident may feel uncertainty, or even stress. This is particularly true in the water sector, where the customer could be experiencing a disrupted water supply or damage to their property.
By allowing customers to track their technician’s arrival, water providers can eliminate much of this anxiety. Four-hour arrival windows are a thing of the past, and call-centres are freed up from unnecessary chase calls.
It’s clear that waiting for an appointment can be stressful for customers. We also know that consumer expectations are on the rise, while the pandemic has pushed other industries to embrace digital transformation.
To meet the demands of customers and regulators, water providers should consider how technology can improve the day-of-service experience.
Comparable sectors are already using easy-to-implement solutions to enhance the customer journey. The good news is that Localz is working with customer service leaders such as Welsh Water to bring these innovations to the water market.
Find out how Localz enhances the customer experience for utility customers: