National customer awareness survey launched ahead of market opening
From April 2017 about 1.2 million eligible business, charity and public sector customers will be able to choose who supplies their water and wastewater retailing services – this includes things such as billing, metering and water efficiency measures. At the moment, other than those who use very large amounts of water, business, charities and the public sector cannot choose who supplies these services; they are usually provided by the water company in the same geographical area.
The project to open the water retail market is being overseen by the Open Water programme – a partnership between Ofwat, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the market operator, Market Operator Services Ltd, (MOSL.)
Now, with less than six months to the opening of the market, the water regulator, Ofwat has commissioned a national survey to gauge levels of awareness and understanding of this significant change in the water market.
Claire Forbes, Ofwat’s Senior Director for Communications said.
“One of the factors for a successful market is customer awareness and understanding and for Ofwat to be assured that exists, we felt it was important to firstly measure it and then look to what may be required to improve it. Ofwat wants to ensure that all eligible customers have access to reliable, impartial information about the market, free from company influence. This will build customer confidence in the market and enable informed decision making” by customers about their choice of water services retailer.”
Using almost 2000 telephone surveys and almost 100 more in-depth interviews, the survey, gets underway, today, 10th October 2016. The results, which will be published later in the autumn, will provide Ofwat with a clear picture of levels of awareness, broken down by size and type of business and geographical area.
Alongside the survey, information about the water companies’ own customer engagement work, is being collated by Water UK. This is help further inform the Open Water programme about where there may be gaps in understanding and awareness and what work may be required to ensure all eligible customers have the information they need.
Following due process, the bid to undertake the survey was won by Swansea based, Opinion Research Services. Kester Holmes, Head of Research at Opinion said,
“We are delighted to be able to undertake this important research on behalf of Ofwat. In recent years we have worked with the many large utility companies and international energy companies and we know from our experience that to have a better understanding of how aware customers in business, charities and the public sector, are of the forthcoming market is an important factor in its’ success. This survey comes at a pivotal time in the programme to open the water retailing market to non-household customers. “
Open Water relaunch
A further support to customer engagement comes in the form of the Open Water website, http://www.open-water.org.uk. This has recently been relaunched with a much greater customer focus as well as being a source of information for the industry. The site, which was developed in conjunction with water sector and customer stakeholder groups, will continue to be developed over the coming weeks and months as a hub for relevant impartial guidance and information about the market, eligibility and switching.