Following the launch of the Providing the Services Society Needs, Expects and Values community, we asked John Davies, Chief Information Officer at MOSL, about his hopes for the customer-led community.
I believe driving improved outcomes for customers must be at the heart of what we’re looking to achieve as a water sector. Whether that’s great customer service, accurate bills, security of supply, clean rivers or building trust in the sector’s ability to deliver these outcomes.
In order to deliver improved outcomes for customers, communities, and wider society, firstly we need to understand them. I therefore welcome the opportunity to co-lead Spring’s customer led community which I hope can fill the gaps in understanding what customers and society need, expect and value from the water industry by bringing like-minded and passionate industry groups together.
What do customers need, expect and value to ensure we deliver on their expectations?
What household and non-household (NHH) customers ultimately want is a timely, accurate water bill and to feel like they’re getting a fair deal. Helping customers understand their usage and enabling water companies to deliver an accurate, rather than estimated bill ultimately starts with investment in water meters. This may sound simple, but of England’s 23 million households that consume around 70% of the country’s water supply, only around half have metered supplies. And while nearly 90% of NHH customers – which consume 30% of England’s water – have a metered supply, many of these meters are not read regularly. Just 1% are ‘smart’ meters that don’t require a manual read.
Customers also expect access to clean and safe water supplies. As a country, we often take ready access to water – through our taps and toilets – for granted. Water is an essential natural resource but it’s running out. To ensure we continue to meet customers’ expectations on water supplies, we must raise awareness around water scarcity and the need to use water more efficiently. Some customers are already actively seeking this information as part of their sustainability as businesses or as part of their drive towards net zero. A key enabler for this is the granular consumption data that meter reads can provide to support customers in making informed decisions around their water usage.
What drives customer trust and confidence?
New research from CCW and Ofwat highlights while many customers are satisfied with the service they’re getting from water companies, there are lower levels of trust in the sector [i]. The significant attention recently on sewage discharges and river pollution has intensified scrutiny of water companies and their investments.
The energy crisis has also put a spotlight on the utilities sector, with customers more aware of potential bill shocks against the backdrop of the cost-of-living crisis. To rebuild this trust, customers need confidence that the sector is operating in their best interests and in the interests of the environment.
In the NHH market, business customers have highlighted the importance of being able to trust the accuracy of their water bill [ii]. As the market operator for the NHH market, MOSL is working with retailers and wholesalers to help resolve a number of the metering challenges that underpin the market’s ability to provide accurate and timely bills. is looking at how NHH customers could benefit from smarter metering technologies, and we have recently published a strong business case for water companies to invest in enhanced metering technology. This can be used as evidence to support their PR24 and Water Resource Management Plan submissions. The solutions developed may also benefit households and, importantly, support water efficiency savings. Ultimately, customers will have trust when they have confidence in the accuracy of their bills, great service, and can make smarter choices around water saving. This Strategic Metering Review will provide the Spring community with insights on the benefits of investing in smart(er) metering for more accurate bills, and will support water companies in reducing leakage. When customers pay their water bills, they expect companies to be investing in the infrastructure and assets to ensure millions of litres of water are not wasted through leaks. Our review will also look at metering challenges more broadly, including how consumption data is accessed and shared to support leakage reduction, improved water efficiency, and ultimately provide services society needs, wants, and values.
What is the role of data and analytics in enabling cross-sector partnerships?
As CIO of MOSL, I will of course be looking at solutions to meet society’s expectations through a data lens – data is at the core of pretty much everything! MOSL’s Data Insight programme is focused on improving the quality and timeliness of consumption data in the NHH market. What matters most is that market data is standardised so it can be stored as accurate and up-to-date data in the market’s central system, known as CMOS.
To support this – working in partnership with wholesalers and retailers – we have developed and published a , outlining a consistent approach to how data will be managed and governed in the market. This is essential as the industry won’t be able to provide services that society expects, without first having access to good quality data, particularly consumption and customer data. Through the Spring community we can identify ways to share this insight in a way that will provide value to the industry, its customers, and the environment in which they live.
We have also delivered a step change in the data analytics and insight we provide to the market. This includes the delivery of a range of interactive dashboards and reports on our website. This increased focus on data has afforded a better understanding of the market and its customers, and the role they can play in meeting wider water scarcity challenges and environmental targets. We are also working to explore where we can open up our data to other sectors given the links between water and energy use, for example, on the journey to net zero.
What are the gaps in the sector’s knowledge for more meaningful customer engagement?
Identifying the customer’s knowledge gaps will be key to meaningfully engage with customers. Whilst the market is focused on delivering better customer outcomes, the market’s central system, CMOS, has no central view of customers because these records are maintained by individual retailers.
Contributing to the broader sector’s ambitions on water efficiency and net zero will require better understanding of when, where and how water is being used by different customer segments. We operate a very diverse market with customers ranging from small corner shops to large oil refineries. Not only will these customers’ water usage be vastly different but so will their customer needs.
We know from our data insight on these customer personas that a ‘one size fits all’ approach will not work. Business customers need tailored messaging and tailored solutions for saving water. We have identified, for example, that approximately 90% of NHH customers use water for domestic-like purposes so the messaging for these customers will be very similar to the messaging to households.
We are just at the start of this journey and as an industry, we have a lot of work to do to ensure customers are part of achieving our environmental goals. It will require a change in behaviours for individuals and businesses. It’s important in Providing the Services Society Needs, Expects and Values that we provide customers with the tools and information they need to make informed decisions around water usage.