Speaker’s corner: Jo Dow, chief executive, Business Stream

As retailers clamour for a share of the English water market in April, we will inevitably see greater discounting as suppliers aim to keep up with their peers. Of course, pricing will be high on most customer’s wish lists, but keener prices will not be the only outcome of a competitive market.

The need to differentiate, especially in a low-margin marketplace, will drive increased innovation and improvements in customer service.

We have invested heavily in continually improving our customer experience because we believe this will be a key differentiation factor come April. In a competitive market, poor customer service will quickly result in lost revenue, with customers choosing to vote with their feet. But adopting a “customer-first” approach can help win and retain business.

Utilities are generally not renowned as customer service leaders. So, in our drive to improve we have looked outside the industry and benchmarked ourselves against the very best of the best, including the likes of John Lewis, Amazon and Lush. We are implementing some guiding principles to help raise the bar from a service perspective and to create a more personalised, emotional connection with our customers.

Our hard work and investment is already paying off. Our latest independent customer research showed an improvement in customer satisfaction across all segments with a stepped increased in SME customer satisfaction. We are not standing still though. Our aim is to get it right first time for every customer and we are continuing to invest to achieve that aim.

Innovation is another key area in which we have refocused and invested. With so much competition we’ve had to differentiate ourselves in the market, by providing a broader service offering to complement our core provision of water and wastewater services. Since competition was introduced in Scotland, our portfolio has grown to include an extensive range of products and services, designed to help customers with all their water needs. That increased choice can only be good for customers. England’s business community should expect to enjoy similar innovation come April, with solutions more tailored to their operational and business requirements.

So, in short, while we are looking forward to the opportunities that competition in England will bring, we’re also ready to tackle the challenges. We’ll be working to deliver the best customer experience we can provide, while continuing to invest in new products, services and technologies.

As the market leader in Scotland with eight years’ experience of competition under our belt, I’m confident that if we continue to put our customers first, then we will capitalise on the opportunities the new market brings.


Jo Dow is speaking at the Utility Week Water Customer Conference on 18 January 2017 in Birmingham. For more information, click here.