Three water companies scolded for poor customer service

26th Sep 2018

The Consumer Council for Water has delivered a rap across the knuckles to three water companies, who have been told to improve their customer service. 

The industry watchdog highlighted customer service failings by Bristol Water, Southern Water and SES Water – which provide combined services for some 3.5 million households – in its annual report concerning household customer complaints to water companies between April 2017 and March 2018. 

Although Southern Water saw a total reduction in the number of complaints, it was still the worst performer for the third successive year. Written complaints were down by 20%, but telephone complaints rose by 13%. 

Bristol Water reported substantial 52% and 37% increases in written and phone complaints respectively, while SES Water faced a 21% rise in phone complaints. 

The three companies are required to provide quarterly updates to the watchdog with regards to the steps they are taking to improve customer service. 

The sustained period of freezing weather earlier this year, which was labelled the Beast from the East, affected large parts of the UK and led to a sharp rise in telephone complaints. More than 200,000 people were left without running water. 

Consumer Council for Water Chief Executive Tony Smith said: “The frustration felt by thousands of customers after March’s cold weather disruption to supplies should have reminded the industry that it cannot afford to be complacent. 

“Some water companies still have a lot to learn when it comes to communicating effectively with their customers and ensuring that when something goes wrong, they put it right quickly and with the minimum of fuss. The poor performers highlighted in our report can expect to come under considerable pressure from us to improve this year.” 

Households in England and Wales made a total of 2.1 million calls to water companies with regards to problems between April 2017 and March 2018. This figure was down 17% on the previous year, despite the fact that nine out of 21 water companies faced an increase in the number of calls.

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