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Assessing, understanding and influencing customer perceptions of water quality

Project Number # 1076

Assessing, understanding and influencing customer perceptions of water quality

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Background and Relevance

Over recent years the Australian water industry has experienced significant change with the widespread implementation of regulation, and with regulation comes intense scrutiny of all areas of the business. Of particular importance is the justification of expenditure in terms of value and outcomes for our customers.

Many organisations now realise that simply using customer complaints as an indicator of customer satisfaction with water quality is inadequate and often misleading. For example, a cluster of customer complaints can be very useful in the identification of specific water quality issues such as dirty water events; however, a general dissatisfaction with the taste of the water, in the absence of a significant event, may lead customers to utilise other sources of drinking water rather than registering a formal complaint. Customer surveys, also becoming a significant tool for all utilities to gauge customer satisfaction, may touch on customers’ opinion of water quality, but it is often a minor section of the survey due to the large number of services water utilities provide. As a result it is difficult to gauge what our customers really think of the water quality, and what they might understand about the relationship between the taste of chlorine, for example, and water safety.

The project has developed a toolkit comprised of two customer engagement techniques, four water quality factsheet templates, a comprehensive survey instrument and some methods for the measurement of the impact of the tools. Specifically the tools are:

  • Blind taste testing
  • Customer survey instrument to assess perceptions of drinking water quality
  • Four fact sheets (tastes and odours, fluoridation, and two versions for disinfection)
  • Systematic taste testing

All tools are designed to be modified according to the needs of the utility and the objectives of applying of the tool.