Our strategies and plans

Understanding how much customers value improvements to the service we offer

Why are we talking to customers?

During 2017 and 2018, we’ve been asking our customers how much they want us to spend to improve the services we offer. We have focused our efforts on the 20 areas that customers told us are most important to them. This way we can be sure our plans reflect customers’ needs.

This is one of the most important studies supporting our business plans for 2020 – 2025, as it tells us how much our customers’ value improvements to the services we offer them. We can then use this information to work out how much we should spend on the different projects and schemes we could undertake, whilst keeping bills affordable for customers. Examples of these schemes are our pipe cleaning programme, which reduces how often the water comes out the tap a funny colour and the number of teams we have out in the region fixing leaking pipes more quickly.

What customers told us

By speaking to over 3,000 customers across both our South Staffs and Cambridge regions, we have found that many had different views of where we should invest their money, so we have done a lot of work to balance the different viewpoints when developing our investment plans. 

Main areas of focus for customers

Summary of the most important areas where customers said they wanted us to invest in.

How we're using the feedback

We have used this valuable feedback from customers to finalise our investment plans for the period 2020 to 2025. Specifically, we have used the valuations customers placed on service improvements in our analysis software, alongside a wide range of other data sources, to work out where we should invest customers’ money to improve the services we offer.  Our Business Plan for 2020-2025 shows the details of the projects and schemes we are investing in.

Who we spoke to

Back in August 2017, we invited 27 household and business customers in the South Staffs region to a series of focus groups to ask them to ask them about the areas that they thought are most important to invest in and also to help us design the main online survey so that the questions were clear and easy to complete. We also involved a number of industry experts and stakeholders for their views.

Using all the feedback we developed a pilot online survey in September 2017, where the questions covering 17 different areas were asked in different ways to the 174 customers who took part. This step allowed us to understand which approach would be best for the main online survey, which took place in October 2017. By the end of the pilot and main on-line survey we had spoken to:


This response gave us the confidence that we’d spoken to a wide range of different customers to understand where they wanted us to focus our efforts.

However, when we reviewed the results, there were some surprising results. For example, we had very low valuations being given for protecting the environment and high valuations for reducing the impact of water hardness. These went against the feedback of our earlier research with customers.

Given these results, we decided to go back out and ask some of the questions in a different way to see if it altered customers’ responses. We also wanted to include additional questions about the work we do in the communities to help understand how much money customers wanted us to spend in these areas.

In March 2018 we got together 20 of the same customers who came to the 2017 focus groups to ask them about the results and how the questions asked may have influenced them. We used their feedback to develop another online survey which went out in April 2018 to:


We then worked with our expert partners to combine the results of the two surveys with a wide range of other data sources. This gave us the customer valuations to use in our plans to work out which schemes to invest in.

Who carried out the study?

After a thorough selection process, we chose the independent research agency, Impact Utilities, to carry out this study. This is so that the feedback we receive is totally independent and unbiased.

The independent customer panel (or ‘Customer Challenge Group’) also reviewed and challenged how we approached this work. This was so we could be sure we asked customers the right questions and that we correctly interpreted what they said.