Ofwat has noted the “disappointing performance” for customer service by Thames Water and SES Water as the regulator published the service incentive mechanism (SIM) scores for 2017-18.

Thames Water ranked bottom with a score of 78.4, closely followed by SES Water with 78.7. This compares to an industry average of 84.6 for the period.

Anglian Water was the top performer on customer satisfaction with a score of 88, followed by Portsmouth Water with 87.9.

Ofwat said there had been “marked improvements” from both Southern Water and South West Water on customer satisfaction.

The regulator published its reports on water companies’ service, delivery and financial performance over 2017-18 yesterday (8 January).

Ofwat says customer satisfaction has risen but still lags compared to other sectors.

A spokesperson for Thames Water said: “Customers are at the heart of everything we do and we are disappointed with these results. The extreme weather had a huge impact on our teams, network, work volumes and response times last year, and we have since reorganised ourselves to do much better.

“We have listened to our customers and remain focused on delivering the high level of service they rightly expect. To achieve this, we are proposing to invest record amounts on improving infrastructure, customer service and efficiency over the 2020-25 period, without increasing bills.”

Dan Lamb, SES Water’s head of retail services, added: “While our SIM score last year was not where we wanted it to be, it does not reflect the fundamental changes we have been making that have seen us increase our position in the quarterly results this year, including achieving our highest ever billing score.

“Our dedicated improvement activity is ensuring we are heading in the right direction to provide consistently excellent service to our customers and we will continue to make changes to systems and processes and invest in our people to deliver the ambitious aims in our next business plan too.”

Southern Water referenced that while overall water companies have improved their performance on pollution incidents and internal sewer flooding, more work is needed to meet targets on interruptions to water supply and leakage.

Head of service delivery at Southern Water, Karen Sharpe, said: “We’re working incredibly hard to give the best possible service to our customers, and we’re working with them and our regulators to continually improve. It’s great to have the effort of our teams recognised – but we all know there is plenty more hard work ahead.”

Ofwat said overall performance on service commitments is mixed, which reflects poor responses from some companies in the Beast from the East in March 2018.

The regulator also highlighted that nearly half of water companies have failed to meet stretching targets on water supply interruptions and leakage.

David Black, senior director at Ofwat said: “Delivering a high-quality service and good corporate behaviour are pivotal to the ongoing legitimacy of the water sector in the eyes of customers, and society more broadly.

“We are pleased to see that in many areas such as delivering customer satisfaction, assessing financial resilience and reducing pollution and sewer flooding, the dial is moving in the right direction. This now needs to be replicated across the board, so that all customers benefit from the highest levels of service.”

On financial performance, Ofwat said it is pleased to see that in the round, companies have looked “further ahead” in assessing their financial viability.

“This now needs to be matched by greater clarity in their explanations of payouts to shareholders,” the regulator warned.

Ofwat will take into account companies’ performance across all of these areas when making decisions later in 2019 about the bills customers will have to pay between 2020 and 2025.

For 2017-18, Ofwat saw increases in both customer service SIM scores and customer satisfaction scores across the industry.

“When we set price controls for 2020-25, we will use the customer measure of experience (C-MeX) to provide greater incentives for companies to provide an excellent customer experience for residential customers,” the regulator said.

Ofwat will also introduce the developer services measure of experience (D-MeX) to incentivise water companies to provide an excellent customer experience for developer services (new connections) customers.

Source: Ofwat Service and Delivery report January 2019

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