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Stagnant Communication in the Water Industry

20 March 2018

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Why have my water charges gone up?

Why are these nuisance road works taking place on my way to work? 

Why have I been stuck behind this tanker for the past 15 minutes?

These are just a few of the questions water customers ask daily, not knowing the good work their water providers are doing behind the scenes.  Communication is key and should be exactly how we like our water: transparent, clear and fluid. Yet among many water companies, communication with their customers has become stagnant.

Turbidity in communication

Muddy communication can pose just as many problems as muddy water, - if not more- when it comes to water companies and their customers.  The rationale behind decisions should always be clear and water providers shouldn’t assume that their customers know the answers to what they consider easy questions.

Communicating the ‘behind the scenes’

There may be a perfectly reasonable explanation behind rises in water charges- whether it be because the water company is investing in tackling flooding or upgrading six treatment works this year.  These improvements may be costing the company £600 million and adding just £6 to a customer’s annual bill- but if the reasoning isn’t communicated, the public see it as ‘just another price increase for no reason’.

Last month in our blog, we talked about how many water companies offer financial assistance for those struggling to meet payments, yet these vulnerable people are often left unaware of these opportunities. Some water companies continue to struggle to communicate how the work they do behind the scenes is making everyone’s quality of life much better.

Fluidity in communication

Just as we want our water to be fluid, so too should our communication be.  Providers need to put themselves in the consumer’s shoes and make their communication regular and understandable. 

Social media and websites are great tools for circulating information- and mechanisms that many of our customers in the water industry are already using.  Twitter is designed to allow for quick and constant updates.  You don’t even need the full characters twitter allows per tweet to say “Sorry for the delays on road x, but we’re working to equip your streets against flooding. We hope you understand”.  We’re living in a digital world and water companies need to adapt their communication accordingly.

As well as that though, traditional forms of communication are still as useful as ever- especially for those who are less likely to follow the twitter feed of their water provider.

PR19 and what it means for communication

OFWAT has made it clear that ‘Engaging Customers’ is a priority for PR19, which is more evidence that it’s something we can’t ignore. However, with 9 months left of 2018 there’s plenty that can be done now, before we get to 2019.  Water companies work hard to give their customers the best service but lack of communication is the crux when it comes to getting the public engaged.

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