What customers know, want and do in relation to their water and wastewater services focus of new research

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Water regulator Ofwat and Consumer Council for Water (CCW) have published joint customer research exploring issues such as understanding and awareness of water companies, affordability and trust.

The research found that customers’ priorities are focused on the core services –providing clean safe drinking water and preventing sewage from entering homes and rivers.

David Black, Ofwat interim Chief Executive, commented on the findings: “When it comes to the delivery of core water services, this research suggests many customers are satisfied with the service they’re getting.

“However, it is concerning that there is low confidence and trust that water companies are acting in the public interest, and not enough awareness of support for those in need.

“As times get tougher, and concerns mount about water companies’ impact on the environment, companies need to do much more to build trust and to demonstrate that they are acting in the public interest.”

Findings of the new report included:

  • Just over 7 in 10 (71%) people said they would recommend their water provider to a family member or friend. This is in line with the proportion who would recommend their electricity provider (71%) and gas provider (72%).
  • Knowledge of the water sector was found to be mixed, with most people (83%) reporting that they know who provides water to their home, but fewer than 4 in 10 are aware they cannot change their water provider.
  • A minority of people think companies act in the interests of customers (27%), the environment (27%) and the local community (29%).
  • Engagement with water companies was found to be fairly low, with 44% of those surveyed stating they have never contacted their water company, and an additional 19% saying they have not contacted the company within the last three years.
  • More than a third of customers (34%) struggle to pay bills fairly frequently, yet only 4% of bill payers reported receiving financial help from their water company over the past year.

On water efficiency, many customers realise there’s more they could do to save water and recognise the role individuals can play.

However, the research points out, 48% of people to take part in the research felt they are already doing as much as they can to save water in the home despite some of them not taking straightforward actions such as using a washing up bowl.

According to the research, customers do not tend to see reducing water use in the home or garden as a priority activity for achieving net zero or climate change.

Only 9% of those familiar with the term net zero ranked this as a priority compared to higher rankings for activities such as recycling, suggesting there is still work to be done in the water sector to encourage more water-saving behaviours.

The research involved an online survey of 2,951 respondents in total, which was conducted November-December 2021, and a telephone survey of 100 ‘digitally disenfranchised’ respondents, conducted 4-18 October 2021.

This is the first time Ofwat and CCW have conducted a comprehensive audit of household water customers’ knowledge, satisfaction, trust, priorities and behaviour.

This data provides a benchmark for future years and Ofwat and CCW will continue to collect this data.

The full ‘Customer spotlight People’s views and experiences of water’-report is available on the Ofwat website.