Consumer Expectations and Priorities

We commissioned Blue Marble to produce qualitative research which seeks the views of water consumers in England and Wales. We examined their views on what they expect from us, and how these opinions have changed since our last wave of research in 2012. This research found:

  1. What consumers think their water watchdog should be doing for them; and
  2. What needs and expectations they have of a consumer body; something which can be applied across the sectors.

Our researchers spoke to key consumer groups from a broad cross-section of:

  • household consumers;
  • consumers in vulnerable circumstances (non-financial);
  • business customers; and
  • younger consumers who were not yet paying a water bill – to ensure we heard the ‘future customer’ voice.

We also found out the expectations people have of consumer bodies, and felt these could be used across other sectors.

Key findings included:

On our priorities

  • Consumers remain broadly supportive of our existing priorities but there is now more emphasis on supporting consumers in vulnerable circumstances.
  • Prioritising issues relating to sustainability (characterised as water-saving advice/behaviour change), and future planning also enjoyed greater prominence.
  • Consumers did not raise nationalisation of the industry, water company profits or chief executive salaries as key areas for consideration – despite high profile political and media interest in recent months.
  • People want us to use stronger, more authoritative language in our strategic priorities – they were unimpressed with words like ‘challenge’, ‘press’ and ‘shaping’.

On what people need from a consumer body 

  • Eight ‘needs’ were identified by consumers:
    • Impartiality,
    • Expertise,
    • Representation,
    • Authority,
    • Support,
    • Advice,
    • Investigation; and
    • Accessibility.
  • These needs apply across other sectors too. You’ll find a helpful graphic that we are using to share these findings at section 6.3 of the report.

We will use this findings to:

  • Make sure we deliver for consumers on the issues that they think should be our priorities, as well as other areas we’ve identified where consumers experience problems.
  • Consider whether we are investing sufficient resources into the key areas consumers highlighted.
  • Strengthen the language we use to describe our strategic priorities to make sure they are more authoritative.
  • Share these findings across other sectors for the wider benefit of consumers.