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The high threat of consumer switching in the UK water retail market

In an ever more competitive market, customer service will be the primary driver for consumers potentially switching suppliers, according to an article published in Utility Week this month.


The article states that 40% of customers would instantly review their water supplier upon opening of the water market. Of particular note, 17% stated they would switch supplier because of poor customer service experienced to date.

Even though competition in the retail water market is by no means certain yet, the issue of customer services, a central component of the Service Incentive Mechanism (SIM), continues to have highly significant financial implications for all water companies. More recently Ofwat Boss Cathryn Ross reiterated Ofwat’s desire to see ‘management rewards give appropriate weight to performance for customers’.There is still a gap between the best performing companies and the market average and as things currently stand, many organisations are and would remain at a significant disadvantage to their peers.

Making the right investment in the customer experience has the potential to put Water companies’ at a clear competitive advantage, right at the time when there is much uncertainty and change in the industry. It’s the perfect opportunity to make change for the better, which can be sustained right through any business, political or economic cycle that lies ahead.

A majority of organisations have implemented, or at least trialled, programmes that aim to deliver customer service improvement. However, we find that these programmes can often fail to sustain the early benefits over longer time periods. Once the early, easy changes have been made, it becomes increasingly difficult to change the more challenging processes and behaviours.

Our experience, which has been gained from working within various organisations in many different sectors and regions, and also from our own internal transformation journey spanning the last 30 years, has proven that performance through the engagement of an organisation's workforce is the most effective sustainable approach for delivering continuous improvement to your customer experience.

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The Unipart Way: performance improvement that sustains

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