We recently held a round table lunch to discuss digital innovation in PR19, where we were joined by Yorkshire Water, South East Water, South Staffs Water, Thames Water, Leica Geosystems, Chainmaker Consulting and our partners Sitecore and Microsoft.
We discussed what good looks like in the sector, and as part of that, debated what some customer experience leaders would do if they were to enter the market.
Just as it provides 1-click ordering for customers, Amazon would allow you to switch providers and sign-up to its water services by the click of a button - aggregating your personal data from your previous interactions with the company, to prevent a lengthy registration process.
The business retail market opened up for competition just over a year ago. 10% of customers have since engaged in the market, whilst some customers –particularly smaller customers, have found it difficult or have not seen it as worthwhile to engage. As deregulation of the household market looms on the horizon, those who offer speed and simplicity when switching stand to gain market share.
Use of drones during major incidents
The thaw that followed the ‘Beast from the East’ – the name given to the period of cold weather in late February and early March this year – left over 200,000 customers in England and Wales without water for more than four hours; and over 60,000 customers without supply for more than 12 hours.
Amazon is already testing drones as a delivery method for Prime customers. Could it use drones to supply water to vulnerable customers during critical incidents or collect water from faraway sources during droughts?
A range of accessories
Apple really takes the customer experience into consideration while designing products and services, and focuses on the most minuscule of details; the company would enter the market armed with a range of plumbing accessories and water-saving devices designed with the user in mind.
With the UK facing up to a 20% reduction in summer rainfall by 2050 and a 20% population rise over 20 years – much of it in drier areas – resilience is a key theme in PR19.
Apple’s approach to building devices that people love has gained a cult following over the years and whilst most customers don’t think about water efficiency and only interact with their water supplier when they have an issue, Apple could become a leader in customer engagement and finally get people talking about water.
Reporting and tracking incidents
Similar to how you use the Uber app to share your location, order a cab and track its whereabouts, Uber would allow you to report a leak in the street via your location services and track where the engineers are on its map.
The digital platform economy
Like Amazon, Uber have created a platform that can enable a wide range of activities – a foundation for new value creation. Initially facilitating car-sharing, Uber has already harnessed its platform to venture into a new sector with Uber Eats, and has recently announced a deal with scooter hire company Lime, to allow Uber users to rent Lime's scooters via the car-sharing company's app.
The digital platform economy offers the same model that water companies have been operating in the physical world for decades; invest heavily in an infrastructure which will then facilitate the seamless operation of providing filtered water into, and removing wastewater away from, households across England and Wales.
Water-saving tips and devices tailored to customers
Netflix have raised the bar when it comes to personalisation. It estimates that 80% of content consumed comes from recommendations informed by data, with hyper-personalisation resulting in less subscriber churn, more content consumed, and stronger customer relationships. Netflix also claims that using artificial intelligence to make personalised recommendations - and therefore automating the process - saves the company US $1bn a year.
As we’re seeing currently with the prolonged hot weather, water companies up and down the country are urging customers to save water – sharing water-saving tips and offering free water-saving devices - but the communications aren’t being tailored to customers individually. Netflix would provide personalised tips and devices based on customer’s usage, location and household – using intelligent algorithms to automate the process.
With Ofwat urging water companies to look outwards to other sectors and take note of how they’re meeting - and in many instances driving – customer expectations, it felt like a fitting exercise for our round table.
For more on customer experience within the utilities sector, read our latest white paper.