Water Plus recently attended the RWM (Water) Event held at the NEC, Birmingham. RWM is a three day event which combines a number of events including the Energy Event, Water Event and Renewables & Waste Management Event
On Day 1, we took part in the panel discussion “Deregulation debrief – what’s happened and where is the water market heading.” Karma Loveday, specialist water sector journalist and editor for The Water Report chaired proceedings.
To open the session, each panellist introduced themselves and gave a brief overview about why they’d joined us on the panel.
Brian took a look back at the story of the market and also talked about some of the Water Plus achievements since market opening. “Lowest percent of customers leaving, more than 9,500 customer switching to us and saving of up to £2.2 million for our customers through water efficiency activities’.
Being relatively new to the Water Plus team, Kim shared her view on the future for Water Plus. Differentiation through a focus on service; becoming number one for customer satisfaction in the water industry; adding value to the customer experience through our advanced services and new technologies such as the water efficiency app and smart metering portal.
Evan explained that as well as offering customers direct support and advice, part of CCW role is to monitor the market. Research conducted by CCW in July 2017 showed that 4 out of 10 SME customers were aware of the change in market. Acknowledging that the figure may seem low, this was actually a marked improvement from research taken in 2016 which had only 1 out of 10 being aware of the change in market.
Michael introduced himself, and explained that he found it easiest to look at the market in terms of four key themes – switching, settlement, market entry and change. He outlined key points about each theme.
50,000 supply points switched
Customers renegotiating contracts
Switching in all areas of the country and across all business sizes
Many customers switch to one retailer
£210,000,000 a month settled between retailer and wholesaler
11 new entrants into the market
First self-supply entrant
Joint ventures, mergers and acquisitions
Change in the market landscape improving choice for customers.
Activity spans as far back as 2012, developing new processes in the hope of making a it beneficial and easier market for customers
After the introductions and overviews, Karma opened the session to take questions from the audience. First question was in relation to the 6 out of 10 consumers who are still unaware of what an open water market means and who’s responsibility it is to improve this.
There wasn’t just one simple answer this question. Word of mouth, education on choice and providing a good standard of service were suggested as key to raising customer awareness. Brian explained that digital trends in searches for information or quotes online aligned with the increase of awareness since 2016 but to see an improvement in this statistic it really is the responsibility of the everyone in the industry, be it retailers, wholesalers, the regulator, third parties etc. to spread the word.
The panel were then asked what they saw as the trend for the 2% of the market that had engaged since April 2017. “Did they tend to switch or walk away?”
It was explained that factors such as business size plays a huge part in switching activity. Larger businesses who more often than not have access to an informed facilities manager helps give a business confidence to switch. As well as this, larger business are more likely to have a number of sites in more than one wholesaler region. The ability to have “one bill, one contract, one key account manager” makes switching highly beneficial.
However, from discussions it looks as if activity in the SME market is quite different. SME businesses seem to be dipping their toe but unsure as to the benefits of making the jump. Evan reiterated this by saying that “people are not diving in”, but believes the apprehension of switching is worse than switching itself.
The challenge presented around price comparison for TPIs and Brokers was next on the agenda. “Why can’t price comparison be made easy?”
It was explained that the reason for the difficulty in comparison options for TPIs was a due to data only being accessible to retailers and not third parties. To add further difficulty, the data is sometimes based on estimate consumption making it difficult to compare ‘like for like’. This is an issue that it is hoped will improve in the future as the market matures.
Finally, the panel was asked what they expect the role of the regulator to be in 5 years’ time. Naturally the panel looked to Michael to cover this one. His answer was clear - “Drive out negative behaviour and hopefully improve processes.” In many cases the threat of the regulator drives better services for customers.
Evan agreed, stating that MOSL was integral to cross industry communication and improving customer experience through monitoring the market.
In addition to this panel, we host an additional three speaking slots over the course of the event, including