Ofwat has set out a number of actions water companies can take to help customers who may be struggling through the pandemic in a new report.
The report follows the Water regulator’s ‘Listen, Care, Share’-conversation, which took a deep dive into customers’ experiences during the pandemic and the different types of support offered.
David Black, Interim Chief Executive Officer commented on the announcement: “Our ‘Listen, Care, Share’ conversation has allowed us to really understand what customers have been going through and continue to endure as a result of the pandemic.
“There have been some great examples of the industry stepping up to help customers, particularly those who are vulnerable. But we know that some customers are not getting the right help at times when they need it the most.
“We’d like to see companies providing effective support, compassionate treatment and clear advice to customers at this time.
“There is an opportunity for the sector to learn lessons from each other and take steps to drive up the standard of support to those unable to pay their bills and ease the financial burden on households.”
The report sets out some of the challenges water customers are facing and suggests areas in which water companies could consider change, focusing on eight ways to achieve change and help companies build relationships with customers:
- Increase visibility of support. According to Ofwat, customer awareness of support available from water companies is low. Support needs to be clearly promoted and well signposted across different channels.
- Be proactive: look for those who are struggling . According to Ofwat, contacting customers early is a way to avoid debt building up. Companies can look for signs of behaviour change such as missing payments.
- Communicate in a way that people understand and that is empathetic. According to Ofwat, making messaging consistent and simple will improve customer understanding. This includes using plain English and avoiding jargon or terms that customers are not familiar with.
- Accessing support: keep it simple. Some of Ofwat’s research findings are reported to show that those struggling with their mental health can find it difficult to ask for support with bills. Reducing practical hurdles, including needing to print out forms, and delays in finding out whether support would be provided is reported to be vital.
- Customer journey: tailoring interactions . According to Ofwat, this refers to asking customers receiving support how often they want to hear from the company, or checking in with customers before support comes to an end.
- Partnerships: work with others to provide support. According to Ofwat, this refers to directing customers to agencies who can help them manage their finances.
- Make better use of data. According to Ofwat, this refers to reviewing data that is collected and using it to help water companies understand more about those who are receiving or missing out on support.
- Share: tell others about what works. According to Ofwat, sharing what works benefits all customers.
The ‘Listen Care Share: Water customers’ experiences during COVID-19′-report is available on the Ofwat website.