Utility Week

UTILITY Week 22nd April 2016

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Customers This week Castle Water eyes expansion in England Supplier among several in Scotland considering buying into the English market when it opens Scottish water supplier Castle Water has said it would consider buying the business customers of more English water companies looking to exit the market when it opens to competition next year. The company's chief executive, John Reynolds, told Utility Week he thought the level of change in the water retail market in England would be "more revolutionary than anticipated". The company has applied to Ofwat for a water supply and sewerage licence with a view to "full national coverage" in England. It is currently the largest independent supplier oper- ating in the English market, aer buying the business customer base of Portsmouth Water when it announced it would exit. Reynolds said he is now looking at a number of other routes to market, including further acquisitions. Castle Water was founded to provide water services to business customers across England and Scotland, and already serves more than 20,000 customers in both countries. Other Scottish suppliers, including Scottish Water subsidiary Business Stream and new entrant Everflow, have told Utility Week they are considering buying into the English market when it opens. In January, Portsmouth became the first water com- pany to reveal it will exit the market when competition is introduced. In early March, Severn Trent Water and United Utilities stated their intention to team up to create a new, separate and yet to be named retail business. LV ENERGY NAO: Green Deal 'failed to deliver' The National Audit Office (NAO) has slammed the government's Green Deal scheme, claiming it has "not achieved value for money" and leaves "significant gaps" in its information on costs. The Green Deal, designed to increase the energy efficiency of existing homes, cost taxpayers £240 million. The Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) announced last July that its funding would be closed aer just 10,000 properties signed up. The NAO report blamed Decc's design and implementa- tion of the scheme, but acknowl- edged that Decc did achieve its target to improve 1 million homes through a combination of the Green Deal and Energy Com- pany Obligation (Eco) schemes. NAO comptroller and audi- tor general Amyas Morse said: "[Decc's] ambitious aim to encourage households to pay for measures looked good on paper… but in practice, its Green Deal design not only failed to deliver any meaningful benefit, it increased suppliers' costs – and therefore energy bills." ENERGY Decc plans change to Warm Home scheme More energy customers could soon benefit from a rebate on their energy bills under propos- als by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) to include smaller suppliers in the Warm Home Discount Scheme. Currently, suppliers with 250,000 domestic customers are obliged to commit money to the scheme, and automatically provide the subsidy to qualifying customers. Eligible customers of smaller suppliers have to apply themselves. Under the proposed new plans, the customer thresh- old would be lowered so that smaller suppliers would be part of the scheme, and would pass on the subsidy to their customers. ENERGY SSE and First Utility lag on Eco targets SSE and First Utility insist they will reach targets under the Energy Company Obligation (Eco) scheme, despite Ofgem fig- ures that reveal they are lagging behind their competitors. The figures show the progress made by suppliers up until March 2016, under the second part of the Eco scheme. Suppli- ers have until 31 March 2017 to fully meet their Eco targets. SSE has so far only hit 99.61 per cent of its target, the only big six supplier not to have met it. The largest independent, First Utility, is the furthest behind tar- get, at 74.32 per cent, followed by Ovo (78.32 per cent) and Utility Warehouse (84.29 per cent). Look out: Castle has English assets in its sights I am the customer Mark K Smith "Be channel agnostic to engage with customers" Five years ago, many of us were familiar with the following sce- nario: having taken the day off work to wait for an engineer to fix the boiler, the knock on the door never arrived. You wasted a day's holiday, and had to go through it again. Thankfully, many utility companies have made enormous progress in this area, giving customers specific time slots and advanced notice of delays. But there is so much more to do. The trick now is to communi- cate with customers that are too other noise. The key is to plan for a reply, be channel agnostic and move across channels if no response is forthcoming. By having a dialogue – and not monologue – with custom- ers, utilities can reduce missed appointments and wasted truck rolls, leading to carbon and financial efficiencies. And with industry customer churn rates at 12-15 per cent, what better way to engage properly with customers? Mark K Smith, chief executive, Contact Engine busy to talk, forgetful, unavaila- ble or just lack a way of regularly communicating. How? By learn- ing from each interaction. Each one teaches us something new about the customer and how they like to be contacted: the best time, best day, best channel, best wording, best tone. Your approach might be an email, app, SMS, mobile optimised website, tweet, or instant messenger system such as WhatsApp. But you can't rely on just one or two channels; an email can be lost, downloading an app is a pain, texting to a switched off mobile won't work, websites go down, and instant messengers can get swamped in UTILITY WEEK | 22ND - 28TH APRIL 2016 | 21

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