The argument for deregulation in the water industry is compelling, the act of Parliament has been passed and whilst large business customers have enjoyed some choice in recent years, in 2017 the whole business market will be opened up in England for the very first time (Wales has opted out of deregulation).

Why? "It's all about the Customer" - Mark Prowles, CEO, Business Stream


How has Scotland benefited from water industry deregulation?

Back in 2008, the Scottish Water market was deregulated (the first country in the world to do so) and since then, there has been vast improvements in service, customer service and efficiencies have been enjoyed by the most important element of any market - the customer. In the first five years to April 2013, Business Stream:

The traditional Public Sector culture of the water authorities will suddenly need to be commercially minded, marketing-focused and structured to proactively deliver acquisition and retention plans through marketing. Of course this can’t happen overnight. The water companies will have to gear up in short order to a more assertive marketing footing, prepare to repel attackers and equally seek to gain market share to offset their lost customers.

A core part of this activity will be their digital roadmap, strategy and their social media actions.

Lessons from the energy market deregulation

Over the 15 years of energy market deregulation to 2014, 37% of electricity customers didn’t switch and 40% of gas customers remained with their original provider. With 63% of electricity and 60% of gas customers switching, the propensity to switch is both a great opportunity and a real threat!

Ofgem report low customer satisfaction, a lack of trust and major dissatisfaction with the big 6.  Whilst these stats are predominantly across both B2B and B2C customers, there is increasingly a blurred line between consumer and business customers. Indeed, much is being made of the fact that a business customer is first and foremost a consumer and increasingly many marketers view the principles of marketing as the same regardless of market definition.

What this means for the Water Authorities in England

Retention and acquisition is a new language, requires a new culture, approach, and new skills. Thankfully there are lessons we can draw on, tried and tested approaches that are known to work in the utilities market and a deep knowledge in agency land that can be accessed easily in a partnership model.

Fundamentally delivering great service, great communications and well marketed “products” will retain current customers and entice potential customers to switch from their current providers. Central to this activity is the provision of great digital experiences. Clearly signposted application forms, great mobile UX, intuitive interfaces and seamless social media comms all tied together with a robust but concise strategy, underpinned with proven planning, make for an excellent digital experience.

Your first step is to find an experienced Utility B2B specialist agency, get evidence of impacts, embrace change, gear up with robust strategy, a clear road map of development and strong planning. Sell into the whole business.

After Digital has worked with one of the best in this capacity: EDF Energy Group. Having worked in partnership with EDF to create their 5 Year Digital Roadmap and working alongside their B2B marketing team to develop the strategy and plan, we are confident of our expertise in this area.

With around 18 months to go until the water deregulation comes into play, now is the time to get underway. It is “All about the Customer” at the end of the day. After all, that old business cliche is a cliche for a reason: “Failing to plan is planning to fail".

We’ll be publishing more information on how the water industry deregulation changes will impact your business and top tips for staying ahead of the game in the coming fortnight, with interviews with top industry leading bodies.

If you are looking for advice on how to prepare your marketing and digital strategy for the water industry deregulation get in touch with us on [email protected]