Beneath the Surface: Customers’ Experiences of Universal Metering

CCW and Southern Water publish joint consumer research to understand customers’ experiences of Southern Water’s Universal Metering Programme (UMP).

We wanted to identify what worked well for consumers in terms of communication, installation, billing and water-saving behaviour. Armed with these insights we can then help to ensure future metering programmes meet customers’ expectations and needs.

Overall we found that the programme went quite smoothly for the majority of customers. However, not all customers were able to have a meter fitted, and there were some customers who had so far been able to avoid having a meter, while others were not aware of or engaged with the metering programme at all. Our research suggests that a lot of these issues could be addressed through better, more tailored communication.

Other key findings included:

Metered customers

  • Customers saved water to reduce their bills but did not continue to do so if there was little financial impact.
  • Financial and water saving support by Southern Water was welcomed. The first metered bill was often the trigger for customers to contact the company for financial help.
  • The installation of meters was generally fine, but some customers wanted reassurance that the meter was working properly.

Unmetered customers (where it was not practical to meter)

  • Generally, customers who thought their bill would increase on a meter were relieved one could not be fitted. But customers who expected to save money were unhappy a meter could not be installed.
  • Written confirmation that a meter could not be fitted was expected with further information on the reasons why it wasn’t practical and what their options were.
  • Customers who could not be metered were unclear whether this might change in the future. Some households were also unaware that their charges would switch from rateable value to an assessed charge. These customers need to understand what happens next.

The research also sheds light on who were the hardest customers to engage with, along with recommendations on how to address this in the future