May 30, 2018 8:30am to 3:30pm
Do you understand what influences customer preferences as they relate to the provision of water services?
There is an increasing trend of water utilities wanting to become more ‘customer centric’ so as to deliver its products and services in a way that better meet their customers’ needs and expectations.
This change in approach was driven partly by studies such as the 2011 project Developing Future Directions for the Australian Urban Water Sector which found that the water sector within Australia was notably “out-of-step with other sectors” in terms of a genuine customer focus, and a key recommendation of the report was that governments, regulators and service providers should ensure that the urban water sector gives a greater voice to customers through exploring opportunities for customer choice in pricing and service delivery, improved engagement in objective setting and the determination of trade-offs, improved customer protection frameworks, and competition (Frontier Economics, 2013).
To do this, utilities are reaching out to understand customer preferences through mechanisms such as surveys and focus groups. This approach sees water utilities engaging with customers to understand their preferences as they relate to such things as price/affordability, billing preferences, service levels, responsiveness to faults, etc etc. The problem remains however that lead times and life spans for major asset developments are long so the customer / community preferences that are understood and then used for planning purposes are often outdated or superseded by the time the solution is implemented or the infrastructure is operational. In some cases this can lead to an erosion of social licence to operate as the utility is still seen as ‘out of step’ with customer and community expectations.
The purpose of this workshop is to examine this issue and determine what further actions could be taken to provide the water industry with better understanding of what influences customer preferences.