Water companies face rising complaints

Statistics published this month have revealed that nine of the twenty-one water companies based in England and Wales have received a significantly high number of customer complaints this year.

Of the nine water companies, the three that received the largest number of complaints were Bristol Water, Surrey-based SES water and Southern Water.

The statistics

Bristol Water, which currently oversees the water of its 1.2 million customers, saw its number of phone complaints increase by 37% and its written complaints by 52%.

Elsewhere, SES water saw its phone complaints increase 21% from its 300,000 customers. While Southern Water did not reveal its complete statistics, it’s been confirmed the company remains the UK’s most complained about water company for the 3rd year running despite reducing its number of written complaints by a fifth.

All three water companies will now have to file quarterly reports to the watchdog CCWater which highlight how they will be attempting to reduce the overall number of customer complaints.

Why the high number of complaints?

The rise in complaints can largely be attributed to a number of weather-related incidents that have occurred throughout the year.

The largest, The Beast From The East, was a cold wave that hit the UK back in late February which caused temperatures to plummet far lower than the average for the time of year, as well as large amounts of snow and ice.

The unusual weather left more than 200,000 people without running water of which many complained about poor communication and support from their water suppliers.

CCWater chief executive Tony Smith said that water companies still have a lot to learn when it comes to communicating with customers and that it was imperative that water companies step up to solve customer issues quickly with minimal fuss.

However, the number of people turning to CCWater to help with their complaint actually fell during the 2017-18 year by 13%.

A work in process

Southern Water described itself as going through a “period of significant transformation” in response to the news that it continues to be the UK’s most complaint about water provider.

Chief Customer Officer Simon Oates noted that the company still had a long way to go to meet the standard its customers expect but that it’s drop in complaints this year is a positive sign of change.

Bristol Water’s customer service director, Ben Newby noted that the bad weather back in February had an impact on the rise of customer complaints and that the company is committed to improving customer satisfaction.

And in response to its rising complaints, a spokesman for SAS Water said it was “currently amidst a two-year programme which is specifically aimed at improving the experience for our customers.”