Water UK, the trade body for water companies, has announced that from April this year the average water bill will increase by roughly 7.5% in England and Wales, and by 5% in Scotland. These percentage are averages – some water companies rates rise will be higher and some will be lower. Anglian Water’s bills, for example, will go up by 10.6%, while South West Water’s will only rise by 1.7%.
Water UK says the average annual combined (that’s water and sewage) bill will be £448 per annum. That’s the equivalent to £1.23 a day and a rise of £31 a year.1 Meanwhile, households in Scotland will see bills rise by an average £19 a year (that’s 5%).2 Whilst the average increase may be a below-inflation rise, it’s yet another hit on household incomes when the UK is already experiencing a cost of living crisis.
Why the price hike?
Water companies use around 2% of the nation’s electricity and although they have absorbed as much cost as possible, this year’s price increase reflects the inflationary impact of higher energy costs.
We know that water companies are acutely aware of the impact of price rises, especially on lower income and vulnerable customers. Many have recently increased the level of support they offer by more than £200 million. This will certainly help hundreds of thousands of households, but previous methods of dealing with customers who can’t pay their water bills by sending in debt collectors, have not only been ineffective, as they rarely recoup the whole debt, but the process has affected customers’ trust in their suppliers.
Water companies have a responsibility to help their customers. Here’s how they can help their customers save on their water bill:
Encourage them to use less water
For this to be effective communications must be tailored and relevant to each customer, otherwise suppliers risk being perceived as “out of touch” with customers’ realities.
Encourage them to fit smart meters
For customers in England or Wales, water bills are estimated using the old ‘rateable value’ of a home. This roughly equates to a home’s rental value. That means bigger homes tend to pay more for their water. Therefore having a smart meter fitted may save certain customers money.
Encourage them to ask for an assessed charge bill
If a customer lives in a property with shared pipes, such as a flat, which can’t practicably have a meter fitted, they can ask for an ‘assessed charge bill’. This works out how much they’d likely pay if they were on a meter, which could significantly reduce their bill.
Encourage them to take up water saving products
Water suppliers across much of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland need to do more to promote the fact that customers have the opportunity to access a range of free water insulation kits and water-saving gadgets, such as shower heads, tap inserts, garden hose nozzles and Buffaloo cistern bags.
Make vulnerable customers aware of the rebates and grants available to them
If a customer is in financial difficulty they can claim certain benefits or request to be put on a social tariff. This could potentially slash their bill by up to 90%. If a customer has certain medical conditions that cause them to use more water, or they have more than three children and claim certain benefits, they could get their bills capped under the WaterSure scheme. It’s up to water companies to help educate and inform their customers about the grants and rebates available to them.
Proactively support low-income customers
Support is also available for low-income customers who use a lot of water for essential family or health reasons through the WaterSure scheme. In addition, a range of assistance (not just financial) is available through the Priority Services Register for a wide range of people – from those with sight, hearing or mobility difficulties, to parents with babies under 12 months old.
Support for low-income households is being increased to its highest level ever. More than one million households already receive help with water bills, and this is being increased to 1.2 million over coming months. It’s up to water companies to make sure their customers are aware of the options and help available to them.
How we can help:
Our data science and behavioural science based customer engagement solutions are proven to help customers reduce their water consumption. Here are five ways we help water companies to reduce their customer’s water consumption.
- Increased customer engagement and insight
With our software, we send personalised behavioural science based communications to individual customers, relating to their household’s water consumption. Our customer engagement platform and communications approach increases engagement between customer and supplier and is proven to motivate customers to make behavioural changes to reduce their water consumption.
- Use smart meter data to reduce leaks
Recent advances in intelligent water meter technology have improved the quantitative monitoring of water supply and consumption. Using smart meter data we can indicate high water consumption to individual household’s that might have a potential leak – encouraging customers to monitor consumption and helping water companies be proactive in detecting and fixing leaks.
- Help water companies cross sell/up sell products to reduce consumption
The increased customer engagement that our platform and solution delivers serves to increase customer confidence in their supplier. Growing traction in engagement offers water companies the ideal opportunity to gain a better understanding of their individual customers, enabling them to target market households with suggestions for products and services that could further reduce water consumption. Find out more about how we can help your product promotion efforts.
- Help with expanding your water meter programme
Water metering is considered the best tool for cutting water use. Customers that have a meter use 33 litres a day less than the national average of 141 litres a day. However, it is estimated that water meters have only been installed in around half of households in England and Wales. Our customer engagement programmes can help educate customers to the benefits of having a water meter and nudging them towards having one installed. Discover how we can help with smart meter deployment.
- Facilitate personalised programmes to offer tailored help to customers struggling to pay their bills
We are perfectly positioned to help water companies identify, target and engage their vulnerable customers. At the heart of our solutions is data. We will use all data available to us, including data related to where customers live, whether they rent their accommodation, as well as their account information, to identify customers that are currently in debt or in danger of becoming in debt.
The more data that’s available to us, the more information we can glean. Sending a personalised survey to potentially vulnerable customers is a very proactive step in supporting customers. We can specifically tailor customer surveys to ascertain who is vulnerable. Once we’ve identified your vulnerable customers, we can then develop a bespoke engagement programme to reach out to those customers – offering them advice on how to reduce their consumption and therefore their bill and informing them of appropriate tariffs and schemes that might be applicable to support/help them. Read more about he how we can identify your vulnerable customers.
How are you going to help your customers cope with the increase in water bills? Get in touch today to talk to us about our customer engagement programmes.