Bristol Water has more work to do to reduce the number of customer complaints, the Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) has warned.

The company was scolded for its poor performance in CCWater’s annual report published last year.

Since then the number of written complaints made to Bristol Water rose by just over 1 per cent during the first six months of 2018/19, compared to the same period the previous year.

CCWater expressed disappointment with the rise as it had called on the company to improve its service.

Bristol Water was shown to have the largest rise in complaints of any water company in England and Wales during 2017/18, according to CCWater’s September report.

The water company responded by taking a series of measures which have helped to “substantially reduce” the number of calls made to it by customers to resolve problems – but its written complaint numbers remain a concern, CCWater warned.

David Heath, western chair for the Consumer Council for Water, said: “As it stands Bristol Water remains in a poor position when it comes to customer complaints and that needs to change.

“We recognise the company has taken steps to try and improve the way it engages with customers, particularly on social media, but we need to see evidence those changes are reducing complaint numbers.”

Bristol Water was one of three suppliers – including Southern Water and Surrey-based SES Water – challenged over their poor performance during 2017/18. All three were asked to provide the watchdog with quarterly reports highlighting what action they were taking to reduce complaints.

Bristol Water has been asked to provide CCWater with further updates on its complaint handling until significant improvements are made.

Ben Newby, chief customer officer at Bristol Water, said: “We’re pleased that we have seen an 18 per cent drop in total complaints for this year so far compared to the same period last year.

“We appreciate there is still work for us to do on written complaints. Since last year’s CCWater report when we introduced changes to how we handle customer experience, such as introducing a customer care team and a new delivery model for our street works which has resulted in zero written complaints for these teams. We are currently forecasting a 16 per cent drop in written complaints by the end of this year and a 26 per cent reduction in complaints overall.

“We also note in CCWater’s report that our complaint handling is one of the best in the industry with less than 1 per cent being referred to them.

“We continue to work with CCWater on improving our customer’s experience with us and thank them for their continued scrutiny on this area.”

CCWater has also revealed that complaints made against Southern Water have fallen by a third since the supplier was named the worse performing water company in its report last year.

The water watchdog has warned Southern Water not to become “complacent” despite a 32 per cent reduction in written complaints from its customers during the first six months of 2018/19.

The number of telephone calls made to the company to resolve problems also fell by 34 per cent.

Sir Tony Redmond, CCWater’s London and South East chair, said: “We are encouraged to see Southern has made significant progress but that now needs to be sustained over a long period. We are cautiously optimistic the company can finally improve its standing in the industry.”

Meanwhile SES Water has reported a 15 per cent reduction in the number of times customers had to pick up the phone to address a service issue with the supplier, during the period.

Complaints made in writing to the company also fell by more than a third compared to the first half of 2017/18.

SES Water came under pressure from CCWater to improve after being criticised for a sharp rise in calls from its customers.

Redmond added: “These figures give us reason for optimism but SES Water remains a long way from where we would like it to be compared to rest of the industry.

“We want to see further improvements over the next few months to ensure customers have even less reason to contact the company with a problem.”

Both Southern and SES Water have been asked to provide the watchdog with further updates on their complaint handling to ensure they continue to improve.

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