Low income communities are customers too.
Low income households are a huge potential customer base for water, sanitation and hygiene service providers, but one that is still relatively untapped and underserved.
It’s a common misconception that low-income communities cannot afford household water connections. They will almost certainly be buying water at a much higher price on the black market.
By enabling service providers to better understand and engage with customers, we can help them reach the poorest residents who are most in need of safe and affordable services.
The quicker that utilities can achieve reliable, recurring revenue from customer bases in under-served communities, the quicker progress can be made towards the goal of universal coverage.
What can the water sector learn about customer service from UK energy providers?
Learning from other sectors is a fundamental part of WSUP’s approach. We share a snapshot of great customer experience from a UK service provider that could be replicated by water service providers in sub-Saharan Africa.
The power of community-based organisations
Community-based organisations can be a useful way for water utilities to ensure that their services are targeted towards the needs of local residents, and can help to bridge the gap between service providers – which can often appear disconnected from the needs of vulnerable people – and residents.
Testing ways to market sanitation services to the poorest
In an environment where many are unwilling to pay for sanitation, how can we promote safe services? In Bangladesh, WSUP is trialling different marketing models to encourage greater uptake of services.
How can utilities embed improved customer service into their operations?
Many utilities are looking to improve their customer service. But without clarity as to which departments are responsible, efforts can falter.
Why marketing is not just about demand creation
Successful marketing is more than just demand creation. Prioritising activities that create demand focuses on short-term sales promotion and neglects the importance of activities that sustain demand, protecting long-term revenue.
Improving customer service through community-led operators
In Zambia, delegated management models – where the utility sub-contracts service in a particular community to a community operator – are helping improve water access. Delegated operators have been shown to ensure a more reliable water supply and provide better customer service. As a result, residents become more positive about the service and more likely to invest in their own household water connections.
Covid-19 response: an opportunity or an added pressure?
During the coronavirus pandemic, many utilities have had to suspend their usual disconnection practices to ensure communities have sufficient water for handwashing. Consequently, utilities are seeing a significant reduction in billing revenue and even obstruction of meter readers
Whilst this situation is concerning with regards to the financial sustainability of utilities, it’s also an opportunity. More so than ever, utilities must focus on improving customer relationships. These unprecedented circumstances could motivate service providers to invest in customer experience and better retention strategies to protect revenue growth. Utilities will need to convince customers of the importance of their water supply and justify value for money by demonstrating the improved service experience they can offer.