Open for Business: Lessons for the non-household retail water market in England based on customer experiences in Scotland

The purpose of this qualitative research was to gauge the experiences of customers in the Scottish non-household water retail market. These views could then be used to help inform those designing and operating within the new English market – which is due to open in April 2017 – so they can deliver retail services that meet customers’ expectations.

The key findings include:

  • Low customer awareness is the single biggest challenge to creating momentum in a new market.
  • Customers expect different organisations (e.g. government, retailers) and channels (e.g. price comparisons websites) to help raise their awareness. Customers want information that helps them make price and service comparisons.
  • Customers want to know that they have options other than switching, like negotiating a better deal with their current retailer. Customers want their incumbent retailers to demonstrate that their continued custom is valued.
  • Poor perceptions of utility competition can be overcome with suitable customer protection initiatives from regulators.
  • Engagement strategies must not exclude smaller non-household customers who are typically more insular than large commercial businesses.

It is our view that market designers and participants in England can take practical lessons from Open for Business to deliver a market which engages customers and provides them with price and/or service improvement