Significant progress so far, but with more still to do

Photograph: Rachael Gerrard, who works within our operational contact centre in Warrington.

We have developed new services and introduced a 'right first time' culture across the business.

Our focus on improving customer service

Great customer service relies on understanding what our customers need, anticipating problems, resolving complaints quickly and courteously and developing new, innovative services that fit into people's busy lifestyles. We want our customers to trust us and have confidence in our service.

Since completing the disposal of our non-regulated businesses and establishing a new management team at the beginning of 2011, we have demonstrated significant progress against our customer-centric strategy.

We have developed new services and introduced a 'right first time' culture across our business. Improvements have included:

  • the return of all contact centres back to the North West and a system that allows customers to speak to an advisor promptly, rather than navigating lengthy automated menus;
  • a more sophisticated online service to allow customers to manage their water accounts;
  • clearer, plain English bills;
  • a welcome pack for home movers; and
  • a specialist Careline team which supports customers who may need extra help, for example those suffering ill health, a bereavement, or with mental health issues.

The introduction of the Service Incentive Mechanism (SIM) as a measure of customer satisfaction over this regulatory period has provided us with a strong benchmark of water industry comparative performance. SIM results sit alongside our other, ongoing, research on customer expectations and satisfaction.

Key achievements to date include:

  • The most improved water and wastewater company as measured under SIM in each of 2011/12 and 2012/13
  • 42 per cent reduction in customer complaints to the Consumer Council for Water (CCW) from 2010/11 to 2013/14
  • Complaints warranting CCW investigation reduced from 63 in 2010/11 to zero in 2012/13 and 2013/14
  • Consistently third behind only John Lewis and Marks & Spencer on the customer service brand tracker measure out of ten leading service providers in the North West
  • Awarded 'Best Utility' in the Top 50 Contact Centre Awards 2013
  • Becoming the second largest water retailer in Scotland within one year of entering the market

The chart below shows our significant improvement in customer satisfaction over the last three years, as measured by SIM, moving towards the best performing water company in the sector.

Customer satisfaction improvement over three years

Other operational improvements

We have been working hard to improve our performance in achieving statutory compliance and on-time delivery of schemes contributing to water quality and environmental improvement. In May 2014, however, we were fined £200,000 for each of two breaches of environmental permit conditions following an escape of 50,000 cubic metres of biogas at Stockport Waste Water Treatment Works in October 2011. The judge acknowledged our cooperation regarding this regrettable incident and we have since replaced the gas holder, retrained staff and put in new measures.

Highlights include:

  • Delivered stable asset serviceability performance or better on all four water and wastewater measures for 2012/13 and 2013/14
  • Upper quartile sector performance on Ofwat's annual Key Performance Indicators and on the Environment Agency's assessment of water and wastewater companies 2012/13
  • Met or outperformed annual leakage targets in each of the last eight years
  • Efficiency improvements in delivering capital programme allowing us to reinvest £200 million of savings into projects which improve services to customers or benefit the environment

Although we are pleased with our achievements over recent years, we know that we have more to do.

Read more about our Performance in 2013/14