During 2015, we have worked with our customers, employees and supply chain partners to develop ‘Our Unrivalled Customer Experience Strategy’ – Living Water, Loving Customers.
Living Water, Loving Customers expresses our customer service ethos as a core element of our brand and culture. It communicates how we will achieve an unrivalled customer experience in line with our vision and values. It is designed to drive a positive change across the business, a change that happens not through traditional, formal processes, but because our people actively want to please customers.
Our strategy addresses each of the areas that our customers have told us are important priorities. These include:
• Showing each customer that they are special – make service extra personal.
• Taking personal ownership for customers’ problems.
• Keeping our promises.
• Making it easy.
To help us to improve service we have invested in new workforce management tools and field equipment enabling our people to deliver improved customer service more efficiently. This means that our people have all appropriate customer information accessible to them when working throughout our operating regions.
We understand that our customers have individual requirements and expectations and want a choice in how they contact us. In the last year we have introduced a web-chat option and we typically see over 800 customers per week choosing to use this service.
We use text and voice messaging to keep customers informed of events in their area or to confirm recent transactions. Some 10,000 to 20,000 messages are sent each week on average.
Our unrivalled customer experience strategy coupled with Our Way, the service mindset cultural change programme we have been working on over the last four years, positions us well to realise our aspiration to deliver unrivalled customer service and to be the national leader in the provision of sustainable water and waste water services.
2015-16 was the first year of a new regulatory cycle, we have shown steady improvement across the majority of our key measures of success and remain at the forefront of performance in our industry.
In our water business we continue to provide a reliable supply of clean water, continuing our industry leading performance on interruptions to supply and award winning approach to water efficiency.
The quality of the water we produce remains exceptionally high and we have continued to make great strides tackling discolouration of water and in our catchment management approach to reducing pesticides in our water resources.
In our wastewater business reducing sewer flooding remains one of our highest business priorities and we have seen a further reduction in flooding incidents this year. We are working with a number of partners to promote innovative and sustainable urban drainage solutions to reduce the long term flooding risks.
Our wastewater treatment continues to be industry leading and we remain the first and only wastewater company in the UK to use 100% of the sludge remaining after sewage treatment to produce renewable energy at two thermal hydrolysis Advanced Anaerobic Digestion (AAD) plants. In December 2014, at one plant, we also began to clean and transform the biogas from the AAD process into biomethane for injection to the gas distribution network. Through 2015 this has continued to contribute to the proportion of renewable gas in the national gas grid.
Whilst we are proud of what we have achieved, we are never complacent and will continue to make further service improvements in 2016-17 and beyond.
For the sixth year running, we are the only water company on the Ethisphere Institute’s World’s Most Ethical Companies List. We are one of four UK-based companies and 130 companies worldwide recognised in the 2016 list by the Ethisphere Institute, a global leader in defining and advancing the standards of ethical business practices.
Being a sixth year honouree underscores Northumbrian Water Group’s commitment to leading ethical business standards and practices.
Heidi Mottram, Chief Executive Officer of Northumbrian Water Group, said: "We’re delighted to be the only water company in the world to be named as the most ethical for the sixth year running.
“This global recognition confirms that we are consistently delivering excellent environmental performance and have sustained support to our communities over many years.
“Customers trust us to provide our services that they rely on every day in their homes and businesses. We take the responsibility of building and maintaining that trust very seriously, conducting our business in a way that minimises environmental impact, promotes positive interaction with the community and is conducted with sound ethical standards.
“Our ethical track record is testament to all our 3,000 people across the business who make ethical behaviour a standard business practice.”
We have a great track record of applying innovative and creative solutions, which is a reflection of the willingness of our people and partners to continuously strive for better and more efficient ways to deliver our business.
During the last year we have focused efforts on a number of programmes and tools to support our people, creating a culture of innovation. We work in partnership with universities, research organisations and the wider industry to develop and implement leading-edge technical solutions, driving the development of, and making best use of, technologies and business processes to achieve our outcomes.
• Deployment of our customer portal, to support engagement and deliver great customer communication for some of our major capital schemes.
• Exploring opportunities for use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV, or “drone”) technology for asset inspection, reducing cost and health and safety risks.
• Porcupine, a low cost device for tracing potential sources of non-flushable materials in the sewer network.
• Development of a monitor for air valves on sewer rising mains, to identify problems before they result in pipe bursts.
All our employees complete a survey each year, which alternates between an external benchmark – the Sunday Times Best Companies survey – and the NWG Employee Survey. In February 2016 employees completed the NWG survey.
An independent, specialist organisation runs the survey to ensure confidentiality and to enable us to benchmark response levels and the engagement and satisfaction index results with other organisations. In 2016, 71% of our employees completed the survey giving us good insight into how people feel about working at NWG.
Our Employee survey gives us a good indication of the commitment of our people. 78% of the respondents feel valued by their manager, 84% enjoy their job and 81% believe their colleagues go out of their way to support them. Their talent and inspiration is demonstrated by the recognition of numerous, diverse range external Awards achieved and from the peer nominations for our Viva Awards.
We have two schemes encouraging individuals to nominate their colleagues when they demonstrate our values.
Almost 950 ‘Viva Thank You’ cards were sent in 2015, each one acknowledging appreciation for something someone has done to demonstrate they act in line with our values. Viva (Vision and Values) nominations are submitted by anyone in the business each month to recognise exceptional demonstration of the values, in 2015/16 we have had over 300 nominations. The most extraordinary individuals and teams are invited to an annual Award Ceremony.