London, U.K. --- (METERING.COM) --- April 4, 2008 – U. K. water regulatory body Ofwat plans to pilot new measures of consumer experience during 2008-09, following on from a workshop held in 2007 where stakeholders suggested that such measures would be useful.

Ofwat has been working in consultation with a group of companies and the Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) to develop suitable tools. The plan is to pilot and refine the new measures over the next two years so that the industry is in a position to provide robust and comparable data by April 2010. Ofwat has recently issued a separate paper on its review of the Overall Performance Assessment (OPA) but envisages that these measures would become a key element of a revised OPA.

The September 2007 industry workshop was held to discuss how companies might be incentivized to:

  • Increase first time resolution
  • Reduce failure demand
  • Improve consumer satisfaction; and thereby
  • Reduce the cost to companies of contacts arising from poor service.

Delegates agreed, in principle, that there was merit in developing new measures to explore and compare the quality of service companies were providing.

The working group formed as a result assumed that:

  • It is not for Ofwat to micro-manage companies.
  • Available data should be used wherever possible in order to reduce the regulatory burden.
  • Data should be sufficiently robust to enable comparisons between companies to be made.
  • The new measures should expose where a company is failing to meet its consumers' expectations (and therefore highlight the resulting failure demand).  

The working group has developed two new measures – a quantitative indicator based on complaints and unwanted contacts; and an independent survey to evaluate the quality of service experienced by consumers having direct contact with the company. All companies are therefore being asked to begin collecting information on the number of unwanted telephone contacts and avoidable written complaints. (The data for the remaining two elements is already collected elsewhere).

Ofwat has proposed a half-yearly review with companies and reporters in fall 2008, which will allow all parties involved to share experience and best practice and to identify any problems with the reporting requirements or companies' ability to report against them.