Much of what we do for our customers takes place behind the scenes. Unless we make the effort to reach out to the North West, and tell customers about what we do, there is a risk they will never appreciate the value of the service they receive.
Two years ago, our research highlighted that customers felt we were a faceless corporate entity, a ‘silent’ service provider.
In an attempt to bridge this gap, we refreshed our brand with a new look, feel and friendly tone of voice (‘helping life flow smoothly’ became our new tagline) supported by an internal culture change programme, focused on customer service.
This friendly, down-to-earth approach, with the customer at its heart, now permeates all our external communications – from our roadworks signs to our customer leaflets.
And the good news is its working. We continually track regional opinions, by speaking to customers at road shows, and through a ‘brand tracker’ - independent research in which we canvass the opinions of 900 homeowners and 200 businesses every quarter.
Since brand tracking began, more of our customers see us as a friendly and helpful customer-driven organisation. 54 per cent now have a very good or good understanding of what we do (up from 43 per cent in 2012). Customer satisfaction with our service sits at 71 per cent (up from 63 per cent in 2012).
Key strands of activity that are driving this improvement in perceptions and understanding include:
Annual campaigns: each year, we run engaging customer campaigns such as Think Before You Flush (focused on not flushing the wrong things down the loo), Winterwise (reminding customers to lag their water pipes over winter), Watertight (the environmental and financial advantages of saving water) and Leakline (encouraging customers to report leaks they spot in the street). We also deliver campaigns around major capital schemes.
Although the campaigns focus on specific issues, they also support our overarching objective to improve customer understanding of who we are, and what we do.
Customer road shows: last year, we spoke to 19,000 customers, in supermarkets and high streets – on everything from bills to baby wipes! We know from our research that face-to-face engagement is one of the most effective ways of improving customer understanding and appreciation of our brand.
Digital communications: we are always seeking new ways to use social media and video to engage the North West. We have an active Twitter account with over 11,000 followers, Facebook pages and our own YouTube channel, all of which we use on a daily basis to enhance our friendly and approachable brand and to engage with our customers directly.
Weather sponsorship: we sponsor the ITV Granada/Border weather, and have recently renewed this link for a third year, allowing us to reach a mass audience across the region, cost-effectively.
Street signs: roadwork signs don’t have to be boring. We’re always trying new things when it comes to street furniture, from pioneering our first ever mirrored sign in Cumbria (reflecting a picturesque Ennerdale lake) to localising messages so that they chime with communities.
Watermen: In 2013-14, we embraced an unprecedented opportunity to inform and educate a mass TV audience on the work the industry does, by taking part in a fly-on-the-wall documentary for BBC2 called Watermen: A Dirty Business. The series, which followed our employees going about their jobs, averaged 2.4m viewers per episode, double the pre-broadcast estimate.
If you would like to send us a comment about this report, please email our Head of Sustainability, Chris Matthews