Water & Wastewater Treatment

WWT July 2019

Water & Wastewater Treatment Magazine

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www.wwtonline.co.uk | WWT | XXXX 20XX | 17 improvements, and how could it change the landscape for customer service in water overall? Customer contacts In some respects, C-MeX scores and performance may resemble those seen under SIM, not least since the survey of customers who have contacted their water company – which was previously a core element of SIM – will still carry a 40 per cent weighting. Moreover, among the second survey of randomly selected customers, there may be a tendency to think back to the last time they contacted their water company and the service they received at this point. So water companies who have done well on customer service in recent years – such as Anglian Water, Wessex Water and Northumbrian Water, which have scored above average on SIM for at least the last three years – are likely to feel the benefit of customers with long memories. Utilities will have to keep a particu- larly close watch on metering and billing, which remain the most common causes for complaint, and traditional customer service considerations will continue to loom large, such as how easy it is to get through to a call centre, how quickly mes- sages are replied to, and how well a com- pany communicates during an unfolding operational issue. However, what could make the wider customer survey more unpredictable is that the question being asked ("How satisfied are you with X water com- pany?") will be answered by the customer based on their wider perceptions of that company, which might go beyond their own personal experience. Water compa- nies that have received negative media coverage – for example on environmental issues or corporate governance – might be penalised by the customer. Conversely, companies that are perceived to be do- ing good work in the community – for example, environmental enhancements or educational work in schools – may be marked up. While it is easy to write off such cus- tomer perceptions as irrelevant or intan- gible, the positive impact of this aspect of C-MeX is likely to be that water companies think more about proactive communica- tion. If a water company is carrying out essential work in an area – for example, laying new sewers or replacing an ageing main – customers who hear nothing from their water company might resent the ser- vice interruption, noise or travel disrup- tion that result. But if local residents are proactively given information about the reasons for the work and the effect that it will have in future, customers may emerge from the experience with a much more positive impression. Water company contractors will be under the spotlight, as they are o‹en the people the water customer will be in contact with in these situations. www.wwtonline.co.uk | WWT | JULY 2018 | 17 • C-MEX FACTS • Ofwat's PR19 final methodology document, published in December, confirmed the regulator's intention to introduce a new customer measure of experience (C-MeX) to replace the service incentive mechanism (SIM), which has been in place since 2010. C-MeX applies to residential customers only • The 'shadow year' for C-MeX runs from 1 May 2019 to 31 March 2020. This provides an opportunity to test the new mechanism and inform decisions on how it will run when it becomes operational on 1 April 2020. Final decisions on incentives will be made in December 2019 and formal guidance published in March 2020 • C-MeX will be a single score based on the combined results of three elements: a customer service survey that gathers the views of those customers who have contacted their water company (weighting 40 per cent), a customer experience survey that asks the opinion of randomly selected customers (weighting 40 per cent) and a net promoter score that uses a question in both surveys to find out how likely people would be to recommend the water company to other people (weighting 20 per cent) • Water companies will be ranked annually based on their C-MeX scores. The top three performers will receive a performance payment of up to 1.2 per cent of residential retail revenues annually, while the poorest performers will receive a penalty of up to 2.4 per cent of residential revenues annually. The top three performers could be eligible for performance payments of a higher incentive (up to 2.4 per cent) if they are also in the top quartile of companies for customer service across the whole economy, and provided they also score better than average on complaints handling • Both surveys involved in C-MeX ask customers for views on a 1-10 scale. The questions are 'How satisfied are you with the handling of this matter?' and 'How satisfied are you with X water company?' • C-MeX is an in-period incentive, reconciled each year. Companies will be informed of their performance in a league table every quarter "I think C-MeX is the most important change in the industry at the moment for contractors," Kier customer services director Benjamin Bax told WET News last year. "Our staff and our operations are more visible than the water companies' largely back-office operations. Potentially, if a contractor has a bad site or badly set- up traffic management or is just noisy and unapologetic, that could be a customer's most memorable experience, and I think it will start to directly influence a com- pany's C-MeX score." Digital emphasis Companies that are able to make good use of social media and other digital channels may also be rewarded. Under the regulatory changes con- nected to C-MeX, water companies must provide five communication channels for customers to contact them, and additional penalties will apply if this is not the case. There is an expectation that customers

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