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Why Is It That Customers Are Willing to Complain… But Not Switch?

The Consumer Council for Water’s industry annual complaint report made for disappointing reading recently. It showed that 10 of the 21 water companies had reported an increase in written complaints per 10,000 connections to household and non-household customers. Total complaints across England and Wales were down just 0.5% to just over 106,000. Branded ‘alarming’, the worst offenders have been asked to pull their socks up and be quick about it! Sadly, however, the results of this audit seem to signal an end to the downward spiral of complaints that have been reported over the last decade.

In a way this is good news.

Complain but not switching

Why? Because it demonstrates that there is a level of customer engagement when it comes to water. Yes, this may be based on negative perceptions of the industry, but at least there’s a spark of interest and a desire for improvements to be made which the whole industry should now capitalise on as we surge ever closer to the open market.

What open market? Well you’d be right to ask! We’re finding that general awareness of the fast-approaching English water market opening remains very poor in some sectors, although we eagerly await the results of the OFWAT survey into the matter (due imminently).

From our own conversations with businesses large and small, companies are currently feeling reluctant to consider switching water supplier – a cornerstone benefit of the open market initiative. This is on the back of previous bad experiences with the decentralised gas and electricity market and also because they are concerned that they may not receive monies owed to them by their current water supplier. Customers are uncertain as to their eligibility to switch and are wary about how much protection they will have if things go wrong.

Surely water companies wouldn’t use ongoing billing disputes to their advantage… would they? Failing to pay customers what is owed to them promptly in a bid to retain their custom would simply be anti-competitive. Let’s hope such stories don’t surface.

Waterscan has always championed the customer and we will continue to do so, highlighting the open water market in our own marketing communications for well over two years now in a bid to raise general awareness levels. But it really is time for the whole industry to knuckle down and do the same. All the back-end processes have been put in place and now the project needs to be handed over to the marketing and customer liaison teams to spread the word.

Businesses across England need to know that the open market is happening in April; they need to understand they are eligible to consider switching suppliers and will be adequately protected by the regulator; they need to know how to switch and, more importantly, the benefits of doing so in order for them to make informed management decisions.

There are multiple water supply options and, for procurement professionals who won’t have had to consider purchasing water ever before, it’s a potential minefield. We have a range of solutions which support clients with actionable intelligence to determine the most advantageous water strategy for their organisation – and we’re working on more innovative approaches too. In the meantime, anyone that is confused by the ‘you don’t need to do anything’ message on their water bill, frustrated with their current supplier, or simply wants to understand more about the opportunities, please get in touch for some no-obligation, free advice.