How the Water Industry can Lead the Way in Digital Customer Experience and Be More Sustainable

Today’s customers expect a simple, quick and tailored service experience. With one third of consumers saying their biggest frustration is repeating themselves to multiple customer service agents, field service organisations are turning to digital transformation to help them improve operational efficiency. Half of field service providers say they will use emerging technologies to offer a specialised digital customer experience.

In the water industry, the introduction of Customer Measure of Experience (C-MeX) and Developer Measure of Experience (D-MeX) in Ofwat’s price review aim to incentivise UK water companies to deliver better services. This takes account of how customers’ behaviour and preferences around interacting with water service providers is changing. Water companies are expected to realise the opportunity new technologies present for them to innovate and improve their customer experience.

How do emerging technologies deliver the holy grail of enhancing customer experience while improving cost efficiency? What other benefits can utility providers expect?

For utilities, a single fault can involve multiple visits to customers’ premises for assessment and repair, leading to delays before normal service is restored. Data shared during phone conversations with the customer, or via paper-based or electronic forms provide the engineer with minimal guidance, sometimes leading to incorrect or lost data. In addition, engineers managing tight schedules can sometimes miss details necessary for approval or processing of a job. Small wonder then that customer satisfaction levels are negatively impacted.

Using video technology in digital self-service is one way to optimise call centre capacity, mitigate bad demand, cut operational costs and deliver a more personalised, engaging approach in this highly competitive marketplace.

Video is a great way of creating better customer experience across the entire value chain, increasing transparency and immediacy.

The water industry is leading the way in digital customer experience by using AI-powered SmartVideoNotes. Through technology such as Vyn SmartVideoNotes, customers have the option to avoid call centre queues and simply record a short video on their mobile device to report an issue or request a new service. This technology empowers customers to avoid call centre scripts & simply present the issue in video format, reporting issues such as flooding and leaks, simply using their mobile phone browser.

Institute water

Report an issue with AI-powered SmartVideoNotes

To make this change, operational leaders have reimagined ways of simplifying complex exchange of information with short asynchronous (1-way) video. Unlike unstructured text data e.g. descriptive notes, video offers rich contextual and situational data insights when extracted, and has the potential to accelerate downstream actions across multiple parties without making unnecessary field visits.

Driving multiple industry benefits to create faster customer and business outcomes

At Northumbrian Water, customers have been reporting their water leaks and issues using AI-powered SmartVideoNotes. “Switching to video intelligence saw many benefits. We found during the pandemic that with SmartVideoNotes, we reduced field visits by 32%. The best feedback we heard was from the field staff that they felt cared for”, said Nigel Watson, CIO at Northumbrian Water. The pandemic triggered the idea for how they could eliminate unnecessary visits to customers, it’s stuck ever since.

Severn Trent has added a link on their website for customers to report a problem using SmartVideoNotes, without having to answer any further questions. Over 90% of customers like the video-enabled issue reporting solution – it is flexible, easy to use and available 24/7. “Video gives customers the opportunity to choose how and when they interact with us. Customers find it far easier to report an issue with a short video than write it down”, said Heather Hately, Customer Strategy Business Lead at Severn Trent.

This technology can also be applied to other critical areas such as reporting sewer overflow and flooding, monitoring the quality of river water to protect waterways, field activities such as backfill and reinstatement to improve quality and self-auditing and tracking water consumption to help customers save water.

Leaky Loo

Scan a QR code to report a leak with Vyn SmartVideoNotes

At Welsh Water, Project Cartref helps customers become more water efficient by resolving common leaks such as dripping taps and leaking loos free of charge. By empowering customers to self-report leaks with SmartVideoNotes, Welsh Water have been able to reduce the friction in reporting issues, leading to double-digit growth in uptake, increasing the number of leaks fixed, minimising unnecessary visits, associated costs and carbon emissions. “This has not only saved our customers and plumbers time but has also allowed for our team to work in a more sustainable way, cutting our carbon footprint”, said Euan Hampton, Programme Manager at Welsh Water.

With customers increasingly looking for personalised experiences and utilities looking to drive operational efficiency, SmartVideoNotes and AI-based solutions offer a unique solution to effectively address challenges that face the water industry and provide real, tangible benefits for both, utilities and customers.

This article was originally published in Institute of Water Magazine.

Co-Authored by Ancel Boucher, Sector Lead Utilities and Swedha Parashar, Marketing and Talent Analyst, Vyntelligence