Scottish Water has been undertaking an extensive Customer Engagement Programme (CEP) as part of the Strategic Review of Prices (SR21). Following a sizeable piece of market research, incorporating both quantitative and qualitative studies on customer priorities, Scottish Water outlined the need to undertake a ‘deep dive’ into three or four areas, one of which was water pressure.
To understand customer expectations of water pressure and what ‘poor pressure’ means to customers. The research needed to consider both opinions and experience.
Customer understanding and opinion of what constitutes poor water pressure is often misguided and easily confused with poor water flow. With the actual number of domestic customers on the low-pressure register being relatively small, there was a clear need to identify how important water pressure is to all customers – both household and business users. Careful consideration was required to understand how expectations could and should be managed across all customers.
The overriding requirement was for qualitative research. However, given the small numbers involved and the misunderstanding of the wider customer base, Turquoise recommended a number of approaches to enhance understanding and to encourage a more informed discussion about low pressure. In particular, Turquoise undertook a mini-ethnography study amongst customers suffering with low pressure. The output from these depth interviews conducted in peoples’ homes was a short film used to demonstrate and highlight the issues faced by customers on a daily basis.
In addition, we utilised our online homework platform to gauge respondent knowledge about low pressure in the form of a quiz and questionnaire prior to respondent attendance of qualitative focus groups.
A series of focus groups were conducted, covering coastal, inland and more remote areas of Scotland with a diverse range of domestic and business customer audiences.
The findings demonstrated that the water industry definition of ‘low pressure’ does not resonate with Scottish Water customers and that more customer friendly language should be used. For example, explaining low pressure in the context of how long it takes to fill a kettle or a bath.
There was a need for customers to be made aware of the benefits of good water pressure management, not just the risks of poor management.
Our research showed there was a need for customers to be made aware of the benefits of water pressure management, not just the risks. The benefits of water pressure management needed to be communicated clearly to allay concerns and fears about what might happen if water pressure reduced to the point at which appliances stopping working.
Turquoise was also able to show that while the small numbers of customers suffering with low pressure found it an inconvenience (often working around the problem), there was little appetite for the wider population to pay more to resolve the issue as a higher priority.