The non-household water retail market opened for business on April 1, 2017. The move, which had been in the pipeline since 2011, promised to focus on improving customer service, promoting protection of the environment and increasing competition within the sector. Heralded as one of the most significant changes the water sector had faced, it has brought with it a range of new challenges and opportunities.
One year into the new market, what have we learnt, and more importantly, what have water retailers learnt about their business and its customers?
Have they identified who their customers are, what their market positioning should be and what the perception is of their organisation with new and existing customers? Ofwat has revealed that fewer than 3% of eligible customers have switched, in a market of 1.2 million customers, this alone signals a discord between the water retail offering and customer engagement and or perception.
The Consumer Council for Water in February this year called for water companies to ‘step up’ their efforts to engage with customers, their latest research suggested that only 38% of small and medium sized businesses in England knew they could switch.
Meaningful engagement to understand the needs and concerns of customers and stakeholders is an area where water retail companies can form clear unique selling points. It will provide forward thinking companies with a competitive edge as the market begins to mature.
The decision to engage with customers to understand their perceptions and needs will be essentials if the market is to be a success. To then benchmark, track and evaluate service through customer engagement will be one of the most valuable strategic activities water retail companies will undertake and it will deliver a significant return on investment. This approach has been used for decades in the wider water and utility sector to ensure organisations consult with the end user – the customer.
For over two decades, our team at Explain Market Research have been innovating, developing and delivering research programmes in the water and utility sectors, our main objective always being to deliver actionable insights for our clients.
Research is paramount in understanding the balance between price and service, to enable businesses to shape its service offering. Measuring and tracking customer experience as well as customer advocacy will allow companies to measure performance as well as areas for service improvement, enabling continuous improvement over time and high levels of customer retention for getting it right.
Our team at Explain Market Research are experts at putting in place research programmes to deliver against the changing needs of the sector.
Contact us today to find out how we could support you and get in touch with our team to understand more about the solutions we can provide.