Testing the Waters 2021

Experience of business customers during Covid -19

Every two years CCW gauges the views of business customers in England and Wales on the water, sewerage and retail services they receive from their supplier. Our latest study coincided with the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and provides us with an invaluable snapshot of the impact on business customers – and how well they felt they were supported by service providers.

A third of businesses severely impacted by pandemic

Few business customers were immune to the impact of Covid-19 restrictions with almost half (48%) stating the effect had been ‘moderate’ but a third (31%) describing it as ‘severe’ – forcing them to re-evaluate their future plans. The size of the business had little bearing on the impact of Covid-19 but those working in the arts, recreation and entertainment were among the worst affected.

Proactive advice on water bill support boosts customer loyalty

Given the far-reaching impact of Covid-19 it’s disappointing that less than a quarter of businesses could recall receiving information from their water retailer about the help and support that was available to them during the pandemic. Those customers that did get advice were grateful for it.

We also found that proactive communication on help with bills shaped a more positive customer view of their supplier. These customers were also more likely to show loyalty to their retailer and opt to renegotiate rather than switch supplier.

Other highlights from our survey include:

  • 69% of customers reported being satisfied with their retail services – significantly lower than satisfaction with water (91%) and sewerage services (88%). Businesses in Wales were significantly more satisfied with their retail services than their counterparts in England.
  • More than half (54%) of customers in England were aware they could switch water retailer or renegotiate a better deal with their existing supplier. Almost a quarter of those that had switched (22%) were unhappy with the process.
  • Customers appear to be becoming more realistic in what they expect to save by changing supplier with over a quarter of those that were aware of switching prepared to do so for a bill reduction of 0 to 5 per cent. The prospect of a better service was also a growing factor in customers’ motivation to switch.

Next steps

CCW will host a session with water retailers later this year reflecting on what they have learned through Covid-19 and how this can be used to improve future services. As part of this we will ask retailers to:

  • Share examples of best practice where business customers have benefitted from proactive advice and information.
  • Engage directly with their own customers who were adversely affected by Covid-19 to understand what they did well and what they could improve moving forward to better meet their needs.
  • Give examples of how they will apply what they have learned during Covid-19 to improve the way they communicate and respond to other service issues or disruption.