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Three water companies scolded for poor customer service by watchdog

Three water companies have been told by the Consumer Council for Water to improve customer service following a high number of complaints. 

The industry watchdog has highlighted Bristol Water, Southern Water and Surrey-based SES Water as the worst performers in its latest annual report into household complaints to water firms.

These companies – covering a combined 3.5 million households – will be required to report back to the watchdog to outline what steps they have taken to improve service.

In total, households in England and Wales made more than 2.1 million calls to water firms to resolve problems between April 2017 and March 2018 – down 17% on the previous year. Yet nine out of 21 water companies saw an increase in the number of calls.

The watchdog also highlighted a sharp rise in calls on household water suppliers, following the 'Beast from the East' as more than 200,000 people were left without running water earlier this year.

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What's being done to improve service? 

Bristol Water, SES Water and Southern Water have all been asked to provide quarterly updates to the Consumer Council for Water on what they are doing to improve customer service and reduce written complaints, after the watchdog's report found issues with them.

  • Southern Water: It remained the worst performer for complaints for the third successive year, despite a reduction. The watchdog has asked Southern Water to continue providing updates to ensure it gets back into line with the rest of the industry. Written complaints were down 20%, but complaints over the phone were up 13%.

  • Bristol Water: It reported a 37% increase in phone complaints and a 52% increase in written complaints.

  • SES Water: It reported a major spike in telephone complaints – up 21%.

"Some water companies still have a lot to learn"

Consumer Council for Water chief executive Tony Smith said: "The frustration felt by thousands of customers after March's cold weather disruption to supplies should have reminded the industry that it cannot afford to be complacent.

"Some water companies still have a lot to learn when it comes to communicating effectively with their customers and ensuring that when something goes wrong, they put it right quickly and with the minimum of fuss. The poor performers highlighted in our report can expect to come under considerable pressure from us to improve this year."