Bristol Water, along with other utility companies, operates in a regulated environment and in 2019 they will submit a business plan to the regulator for the next five years of customer pricing. The regulator, Ofwat, has given clear signals that they expect pricing to be based on detailed understanding of and meaningful engagement with customers. Bristol Water recognise this, but also understand the value of customer engagement to a business that has a lifelong relationship with its customers. Bristol Water was looking for support to bring together best practice from across the organisation, to innovate where it adds value, and to put their customer engagement work on a robust footing at the centre of their business planning process.
Our small team of engagement experts was embedded in Bristol Water from the start, taking the role of facilitators and coaches. We helped the BW team to refine their ideas about what a customer engagement strategy could offer the business, how it could be developed collaboratively, and what the impacts would be.
We provided a rapid evidence review to help Bristol Water evaluate current practice and evidence, then worked with their wider team to co-create a strategic programme that makes the most of their skills and opportunities. We incorporated input from regulatory economists to ensure the strategy meets the needs of the business and the regulator, while maintaining our focus on a strategy that is clear, motivating and above all deliverable. In addition, we recommended an evaluation structure to ensure that the activities were being effectively monitored and measured.
We successfully took the strategy through Bristol Waters governance process, including the external Customer Challenge Group which will report to Ofwat in 2019.
Although the PR19 process is still ongoing, Bristol Water are already in a much stronger position than they were during PR14. They have an understanding of their customer base, a way of monitoring and reviewing their customer data, and also have a much greater depth of research available to them. Their research is also specifically tailored to their business case needs, and a larger proportion of key staff within the business are involved in engagement and research projects.
Having set out a strategy for the next three years we are continuing to work with Bristol Water as a strategic partner. We will be helping them both to deliver best practice engagement, and to develop new ideas that reflect business needs. Capacity building is an important part of our role, and throughout our involvement with Bristol Water we take the time to understand how we can support staff to develop skills and knowledge that can be applied in future.
The project aims to support a business plan process which meets the needs of Ofwat, Bristol Water and its customers. Our involvement so far has helped get the team off to a strong start