The water sector may have had a monopoly but the demand has come to improve customer experience. The arrival of Customer Measure of Experience (C-MeX) in Ofwat’s price review (PR19) reflects the reality of today’s empowered customer who expects a tailored, transparent service experience. We know what we want, where we want it and when we want it. The introduction of C-MeX aims to incentivise water companies to put customers at the heart of their services. The transparency provided by the likes of Uber, DPD, and Amazon are leading consumers to expect the same from all service providers they engage with, including water.
C-MeX replaces the Survey Incentive Mechanism (SIM), originally introduced in 2010. SIM was set to provide reputational and financial incentive to encourage water companies to provide better customer service to household customers. Since its introduction, SIM has improved customer experiences but as customer experience in the wider market moves forward so must the measurement metrics. SIM has a few key weaknesses which need to be addressed. It doesn’t compare water providers’ customer service levels to that in other industries and the measurement programme does not incentivise for direct customer engagement. C-MeX will aim to overcome these issues and the water sector will now be measured on three key areas: customer service and complaint handling, customer experience (general satisfaction, likelihood to recommend), Net Promoter Score (NPS).
The current SIM customer service measure only compares water companies against one another and doesn’t incentivise to reach higher levels of customer service as seen in other industry sectors.
This single industry focus on customer experience isn’t enough and will not drive water companies to provide better customer experiences. Opening up the comparison of water companies’ customer experience offering to other sectors, like retail, will push the industry to think more strategically about its service delivery and its engagement with customers. Under C-MeX the water sector will be compared to other industries for the first time.
C-MeX is tackling consumer engagement challenges and under the new scheme water companies will be measured on their digital communication offerings. C-MeX outlines that water companies will need to offer five communication channels, including at least three online channels, to receive contacts and complaints. With customer needs changing by the day, sometimes by the minute, services need to be flexible and available on a variety of platforms in order to satisfy each individual’s preferences. The most important thing to keep in mind is that consumers over anything want convenience. For service appointments this means being able to directly contact the engineer, change an appointment time or simply monitor an upcoming appointment out and about on their mobile or tablet. In the future consumers will want to see these capabilities on other devices such as smart watches, or be able to gain insights about appointments via virtual assistants.
Companies across all sectors must become individual-centric and quickly learn to stay one step ahead of consumers’ ever-changing expectations in order to deliver the highly personal and individualised levels of service expected. With government talks around compulsory water meters for all UK households taking place, the water industry will need to efficiently fit water meters to hundreds and thousands of homes. In this use case the utilisation of technology to help automate administrative processes and give control and transparency to consumers will be the saving grace for the sector.