Ofwat to track online complaints as part of incentives revamp

Water sector incentivised to 'catch up' with others

Ofwat will start including social media complaints to water companies in its assessment of customers’ experience.

The change is part of a revamp of the regulator’s existing customer service incentive — the Service Incentive Mechanism (SIM) — which will now be known as WaterwoCX.

The new framework will include two new mechanisms: the Customer Measure of Experience (C-MeX); and the Developer Services Measure of Experience (D-MeX). These have been designed to produce a better experience for residential and business customers respectively.

C-MeX will apply a reputational incentive in a bid to reduce complaints. Alongside the Consumer Council for Water’s existing scrutiny of complaints, Ofwat will publish its own numbers and C-MeX scores each year.

The definition of “complaint” will also be widened to include complaints made via social media where possible, and to require companies to offer more customer contact channels.

Ofwat has said that C-MeX will offer higher potential financial rewards than previous service incentives, but added that the “higher rewards will only be available to companies that perform well compared to the upper quartile performance of other sectors which includes, for example retailers, banks and insurers”.

This is intended to incentivise the water sector to catch up with the higher levels of customer service found in other sectors. 

“Our plans will encourage companies to be ambitious in what and how they deliver for customers, the environment and society, now and in the future,” said Ofwat’s chief executive, Cathryn Ross.

The Consumer Council for Water has also said previously that “newer technology is being favoured by some customers and companies” to make their complaints.