We provide water, the essential service, for nine million customers and sewerage services for 15 million customers across London and the Thames Valley. Our customers are at the heart of all we do and we’re committed to delivering excellent service by making the complex simple, building trust through clarity, providing a service with clear benefits that sets us apart and delivers effective results.
Improving customer service
We have millions of interactions with our customers every year, from households to retailers and developers. To improve our ability to serve our customers, we’ve launched a major customer relationship management and billing system with most of our customers to be using the new system by March 2020. Our new billing engine and customer relationship management system launched in December 2018 – a cornerstone for the transformation of our customer contact and billing experience. One of the biggest innovative solutions of its kind in the utility sector in Europe, it will replace an aged, inflexible, system, revolutionising our capability to manage customer metering, billing and collections activities, providing a more effective, efficient and resilient service to our customers.
The new solution provides our frontline customer service advisors with greater ability to assist customers through improved data, insight and processes, enabling them to resolve more queries on first contact and, in turn, improve customer satisfaction and reduce complaints. Our pilot office is demonstrating strong performance to date and the solution design and operation means we will continue to invest to continuously improve the platform to meet our customers’ evolving needs.
We’re also working on the development of a new website to better meet the needs of all our customers and stakeholders and make it easier for them to self-serve. Combined with investment in our operational assets, these projects are critical to improving our customer service and complaints performance.
Our customers have been clear they expect us to be proactive during incidents to protect their water supply and, if there is a supply interruption, that we provide brilliant service, in terms of speed of resolution and communication. Improving customer service during incidents remains a key focus for us - whilst progress has been made, we recognise we have more to do. Having engaged with more than one million customers to create our business plan, we’re continuing with this collaborative approach to improve customer outcomes.
Keeping things affordable
We exist to serve our customers and we’re committed to making our services affordable for everyone. It’s important to us that we’re supporting our customers in times of need - and this includes times when our customers are struggling to pay their bills. Affordability continues to be just as high a priority for us as it is for our customers.
During 2018/19, we helped 82,365 customers with our social tariffs – Water Sure and Water Sure Plus. We increased the number of customers on social tariffs by over 25,000 in 2018/19 achieving our 2020 target of 82,000 head of time. In particular, we saw a 41% increase in participants of our Water Sure Plus tariff. By insourcing our Local Authority and Housing Association customer relationships during 2018/19, we’re now able to have direct contact with these customers, helping ensure we’re meeting their individual needs. We’ve also simplified our social tariffs. Although they’re now based purely on income, we’re maintaining historical social tariff rates for those who are already on our tariff and would see an increase under the revised calculation.
We’re collaborating with utility and ‘third sector’ partners, to deliver our ambition to help 200,000 families in financially vulnerable circumstances by 2025. Our ‘customer assistance fund’ supports customers who genuinely cannot pay their bills and helped 6,742 customers with a total of £4.5 million during the year. We also donated £645,000 to the independent ‘Thames Water Trust Fund’, which funds organisations providing debt advice to our customers, and gave grants for over 1,400 customers to receive life-changing, essential items, such as fridges and washing machines.
Driving significant increases in the number of customers we’re helping with our social tariffs and priority services register is a cornerstone of our submitted business plan for 2020 to 2025, and we’ve been making headway in recent months as we prepare to deliver our plan.
Providing priority services
We’re committed to, and are passionate about, making a step change in our support for customers in vulnerable circumstances. Making sure we’re able to reach customers most in need of support during a supply interruption or when paying their bill is not always straightforward and so we’re engaging with customers in new ways, working in partnership with charities like Age UK.
Our Priority Services Register provides additional support for customers in vulnerable circumstances who need assistance, whether it’s for a bill enquiry or during a supply interruption. In 2018/19, the number of customers on our register grew to 69,130 with 9,110 customers joining in the year, our biggest growth year.
Our goal is to increase numbers on the register to 410,000 by 2025 and to achieve this, we are working with a range of partners including Thames Valley Police and the British Red Cross to proactively identify customers who could benefit from this extra support. In January, we hosted a conference at Age UK’s London headquarters, bringing together over 30 organisations representing older customers, with the aim of increasing awareness amongst their members of the support services we offer. Find out more about our priority services.
Measuring our service
Our Service Incentive Mechanism (SIM) score of 75 out of 100 for 2018/19 is made up of our customer satisfaction score (75%) and quantitative measures (25%). The quantitative measure includes performance in “unwanted calls”, written complaints and second stage written complaints, with our complaints performance during the year being severely affected by the extreme weather events. We needed to divert all resources to dealing with the weather events of 2018, which had an impact on our day-to-day handling of calls, and ability to carry out day-to-day maintenance and repair.
We’re committed to improving our service to customers with complaints reduction being one of our key priorities for 2019/20. We’ve started to transition customers to our major new customer relationship management and billing platform, which will help drive a step change in customer segmentation, giving us a single view of customers, so we can provide a better, and more tailored approach suited to individual needs. We’re also doing a major upgrade of our website to improve customer experience, as well as continuing our extensive customer engagement programme to ensure we’re focusing on what matters most.