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Water retailers need to go the extra mile to help businesses and boost customer satisfaction

The Consumer Council for Water’s (CCW) fourth Testing the Waters report, which looks at how business customers in England and Wales feel about the water, sewerage and retail services they receive, is published today.

The research, conducted every two years, shows that overall satisfaction has declined for both water and sewerage services – from 91% to 88% and from 88% to 82% respectively. Although satisfaction with water retail services – including billing, meter reading and customer service – has remained the same, at 70%, it is a long way from the target of 85% by 2027 set by CCW.

Perceptions of value for money have fallen too, with 68% of all businesses surveyed saying they are satisfied with the value for money they receive, compared to 74% in the previous survey. In addition, fewer businesses believe their water and retail providers care about the service they give to customers.

Businesses in Wales – where the vast majority of customers are not able to switch supplier – are much more satisfied with their services than their English counterparts, with satisfaction rates of 92% for water and 88% for sewerage services, while retail satisfaction in Wales is already at 85%.

Water bills are one of the biggest sources of dissatisfaction. Too many companies are still having to contact their retailer about billing issues. This is also reflected in CCW’s annual business customer complaints report for 2021/22.

“The cost of living crisis means that value for money is more important than ever for many businesses. Retailers need to not only meet their customers’ basic expectations of consistent supply and accurate bills, but exceed them.

“Every time a retailer contacts a business, they should take the opportunity to make sure that the customer has all the information they need, including contact details, financial help, and support. Retailers also need to collaborate with the water companies to increase awareness of consumption and highlight the benefits of water saving, with clear and customer friendly communications.”

Emma Clancy, Chief Executive, CCW

Proactive contact with customers is one of the most important ways to improve their satisfaction across the board. The report shows that the majority of business customers who have been contacted by their retailer in the last 12 months with advice on billing are more satisfied with their retail services, compared with those who have not.

However, only 8% of businesses recall being contacted in this way during the last survey period.

CCW is offering help to retailers to improve their customer communications, providing a communications toolkit and sharing best practice. Business forums continue to take place, where CCW works with retailers to address wider problems.

The consumer body will also continue to promote the importance of water efficiency to all customers.

This latest round of business customer research will also help inform CCW’s comprehensive five year market review, due for publication on 15 March. We will be making strong recommendations for improvements, including the areas identified in this report, so business customers get the services they deserve.

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