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Open Water; time to sink or swim PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 31 March 2017
As water moves to a competitive market on 1 April, Rebecca Hammond, Head of Utilities at Equifax, discusses the need for companies to adapt their strategies, and the lessons which can be learnt from the energy sector: “Following in the footsteps of the energy sector, companies in the business water market may find themselves with a rude awakening on 1 April; it’s time for business suppliers to sink or swim. 

“Water providers need to implement new strategies to address the changing market. Previous tactics which focused on customer experience and using the service incentive mechanism (SIM) to assess company performance, need to shift towards accurately understanding existing and potential customer opportunities. In the new water market customers have the opportunity to ‘vote with their feet’ and easily switch to a different supplier; it will be more important than ever to look after and retain current customers. This starts with knowing exactly who they are.

“With deemed contracts and duty to supply, many water providers still face serious challenges in ‘Knowing their Customers’. Third party data can provide the missing piece of the puzzle to tackle this problem, providing insight that helps providers adopt the best approach to identify and service valuable customer relationships.

“There are key lessons the industry can learn from the energy sector. Since its deregulation, the energy market has seen an influx of new entrants without the historical constraints of the ‘Big 6’ suppliers. Coupled with increasing competitive pressure through enforcement of faster switching, and the Competition and Market Authority’s (CMA) review, the industry share of the ‘Big 6’ has been heavily eroded by challenger brands. Energy start-ups provide a model of how new and existing players, flexible with price and service, can compete against bigger companies tied to legacy systems.

“Although profit margins in the water sector are deterring some new players, Ofwat has granted 49 new operator licences to more than 25 retailers. Trends such as bundling utilities together to reduce costs will create more diversification and pressure from new and dynamic businesses hungry to gain market share. At a time of revolutionary change, existing players can’t afford to be complacent – to prosper in the Open Water Market they need to couple their scale and experience with new approaches to understanding their customers.”

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