Northumbrian Water won the coveted 2017 Utility of the Year Award. Utility Week finds out why.

  • Category title:  Utility of the Year
  • Category sponsor: Capgemini
  • Award winner: Northumbrian Water Group
  • Annual company turnover: £805.5 million
  • Number of directly-employed staff: 3,030
  • Entry criteria:
  1. Customer satisfaction and engagement
  2. Shareholder/owner’s return
  3. CSR and sustainability
  4. Staff development (own staff and supply chain)
  5. Stakeholder (including supply chain) relationship
  6. Acting as an exemplar company; an ambassador for utilities that promotes trust and confidence
  7. Innovation and/or evidence of business transformation within the past two years
  8. How the company has outperformed
  9. Statement detailing why the company deserves to win Utility of the Year

 

Northumbrian Water Group (NWG) takes pride in putting customers “at the heart” of everything it does. In its entry submission for the 2017 Utility of the Year Award, the company described itself as the “national leader in customer satisfaction” referencing its Ofwat annual Service Incentive Mechanism (SIM) score of 88 out of 100. At the time this was the highest of any water company and above the industry average of 82.

Meanwhile the “Water Matters” customer survey from the Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) showed that NWG had the highest satisfaction level with value for money for water services (84 per cent), 11 per cent above the industry average.

The Water Matters report also showed NWG to be the most trusted water company for the past three years. It had a score of 7.95 compared to an industry average of 7.59.

At 79 per cent, NWG demonstrated it had the highest proportion of customers who think the company cares about the service it provides – this was shown to be 10 per cent above the industry average. Its customers were also revealed as the most likely to agree that the charges they pay for their water services are fair with a score of 83 per cent – again 10 per cent above the industry average.

In addition, the company has the highest proportion of customers (83 per cent) who feel their water charges are affordable, which is 9 per cent above the industry average.

The water company said it doesn’t just use other utility companies as its benchmark and instead looks to the leading companies in customer service in whatever field they may be working in. With a net promoter score of 46, the company highlights its customers rate it among the “very best” of companies they experience.

And it’s not just the customers who are happy as 84 per cent of employees say they enjoy their job.

NWG was ranked 21st on the Bloomberg Best Employers UK 2016 list and was named best employer in the utilities sector.

The company also achieved an industry leading 81 per cent employee satisfaction index score. In 2016/17, a total of 1,212 employees received company support to achieve professional accreditation and qualifications.

Innovation

In July 2017, the company held its first ever “Innovation Festival” – to showcase innovative thinking and new technology. The ambitious event brought together infrastructure experts, academics, key stakeholders and supply chain partners to develop a series of new ideas to tackle a range of social and environmental issues.

More than 1,000 delegates took part from 143 external organisations, including headline sponsors Microsoft, IBM, BT, Ordnance Survey, CGI Group and Reece Innovation. In addition to the £250,000 sponsorship raised, the event leveraged £300,000 into the local visitor economy.

Other stand out performance examples

Northumbrian Water Group’s industry leading performance on supply interruptions continued to improve to “even greater levels” in 2017. The company reduced the average length of time its customers experience interruptions to two minutes and 26 seconds. In its submission the company said: “considering that the industry average is currently 13 minutes and 25 seconds, our level of performance is currently beyond the reach of all other water companies.”

NWG also referenced using bio-resources for energy creation on a much “larger scale” than any other wastewater company. It claims to be the only company in the UK to use 100 per cent of the sludge remaining after sewage treatment to produce renewable power.

The company’s commitment to sustainable working has also been recognised globally. It is the only water company in the world to be included in the World’s Most Ethical Company list and has been in the list for the last seven years.

And the company was named the top performing UK water company for the seventh time in eight years in British Water’s 2017 industry supply chain survey.

NWG is determined to achieve its vision of becoming the “national leader” in the provision of water and wastewater services.

What the judges said

NWG scooped the coveted award after impressing the judges with its “all round, consistent outperformance”. Last year’s awards received record number of entries and were judged by a leading panel of independent experts. More than 1,400 people from the utility sector attended the Bollywood themed gala dinner and awards ceremony, which was hosted by actress Joanna Lumley.

Capgemini’s head of energy and utilities, James Forrest helped congratulate Northumbrian Water Group on stage on awards night.

Judges described the category as an “extremely tough award”. They said the company’s performance had gone beyond snappy headlines and polished statements to deliver genuine results at all levels, and commitment, passion and innovation.

“NWG is a recognised leader in its sector, a champion for its community and an outstanding example of a utility operating at the top of its game.”

Winner’s comment

Heidi Mottram, chief executive of Northumbrian Water Group

“Winning Utility of the Year is a fantastic achievement for our company and emphasises our leading level of performance across the entire utilities sector. This award is also testament to the hard work of all our 3,200 people who help make NWG the great company that it is, and this award gives us a wonderful opportunity to celebrate our success together as a team.

“Our aim is to be the national leader in the provision of sustainable water and wastewater services, and while we continue to work hard on a daily basis to achieve this, being named Utility of the Year shows us that we are moving in the right direction.

“We put our customers at the heart of everything we do, and recognition like this spurs us on to continue to maintain and improve on the levels of service we have been able to achieve. Now that we have won this award we want to maintain our position as the leading utility company in the UK, and we will continue to seek further improvement and develop innovative new techniques so we stay at the very top of our sector. We are continuing to build on our position as we were recently received the UK Excellence Award at the British Quality Foundation (BQF) UK Excellence Awards, which is one of the highest accolades any business can achieve.”

Utility of the Year 2017 shortlist

Northumbrian Water Group saw off tough competition in the Utility of the Year category. Other shortlisted companies were:

  • Anglian Water
  • Severn Trent
  • SGN
  • UK Power Networks
  • Yu Energy

The Utility Week Awards are held in association with CGI and Capgemini

The 2018 Utility Week Awards shortlist is available to view at www.utilityweekawards.co.uk

Sponsorship opportunities are available – contact Utility Week business development manager Ben Hammond on benhammond@fav-house.com or 01342 332116 for more information.