Speaking on the topic of “A customer-focused business”, Ofwat Chief Executive Rachel Fletcher addressed a number of issues tied into PR19 at a the Future of Utilities conference.
Going beyond the basics Rachel Fletcher emphasised the progress companies have made in expanding the conversation with their customers whilst insisting there is more to do. The next frontier is will be a granular understanding of customer needs, with evidence already of some companies building this knowledge at sub-post code level. This will be important for vulnerable customers but other groups too considering different socio-economic, geographical, demographic and even religious features.
Ofwat’s review of the first year of the business retail market showed that regional water companies completed only two thirds of their required tasks such as meter reads on time, leading to knock-on impacts for retailers and customers, including late or inaccurate billing. Ofwat is exploring what more can be done to encourage wholesalers to meet their obligations to support efficient retail market functioning, with a document on this released only this week.
They have also introduced a D-Mex incentive in the PR19 control, recognising that property developers rely hugely on the services which water companies provide
Rachel Fletcher stressed the importance of the “social contract” whereby customers expect providers of such a vital service to also provide “gold standard” corporate behaviours – whether that relates to tax, dividend policies or executive pay. Companies will also need to contribute to the communities they serve in a number of ways such as volunteering hours if they are to earn their trust and convince them to adopt lower demand behaviours.
For more detail the full speech can be found here.