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Utilities Research

Utilities Research

Innovative approaches to customer engagement and satisfaction

In a nutshell


This event has taken place.

As the UKs water industry dips its toe into a competitive marketplace for the first time and the energy industry strives to develop winning service offerings for a fiercely competitive environment, the pressure for utility suppliers to identify and supply what's important to their customers and to deliver superior customer satisfaction is paramount. Furthermore, Ofgem and Ofwat remain committed to ensuring utilities place customers' interests at the heart of their propositions and long term business plans.

This event will showcase how utility suppliers are meeting regulators' recommendations and taking a truly innovative and holistic approach to research that is driving customer choice, satisfaction, engagement and promoting behaviour change.

Hear contributions from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, ofgem, the energy ombudsman, Citizens Advice and the Energy Savings Trust as well as 10 power and water utility suppliers.

Hear how:

  • EDF and Thames Water are combining multiple research methodologies and data sources to to inform business planning and commercial strategy
  • BEIS, British Gas and SSE are using customer engagement initiatives and behavioural change strategies to power smart meter roll out programmes
  • Yorkshire water and Dee Valley Water are harnessing insight to drive engagement, proposition development and take up of specialist services for their vulnerable customers
  • Ofgem and Citizen Advice are developing behavioural insights to better understand barriers to switching energy suppliers and to stimulate consumer appetite for energy shopping
  • United Utilities and Northumbrian Water Group (NWG) are developing innovative research approaches and engagement strategies in response to Ofwat's guidance on customer engagement
  • Npower is embedding customer satisfaction research across all departments to drive service improvements

Gold Sponsors:



Where is the event taking place?

Radisson Blu Edwardian

9-13 Bloomsbury Street

    With thanks to:

    Gold Sponsors:

    We’ve been finding bespoke research solutions for clients in the energy and water sectors for over a decade. Our directors have over 25 years’ combined experience in utilities research, forging long-term partnerships based on sector expertise, integrity and creativity. Our clients continue to commission us for a reason and we would welcome the opportunity to tell you why.

    Impact Utilities is a full service quantitative and qualitative market research agency, offering bespoke research solutions, consultancy and advanced analytics. We have been collaborating and forming partnerships with energy and water organisations for several years now. We are EXPERTS in engaging with and understanding your customers, stakeholders and suppliers. We interact with our clients’ stakeholders to provide them with insight and recommendations about the service they provide in a creative and engaging way, identifying future opportunities We apply our industry knowledge to ensure that our insight is fully contextualised, and guides business decisions


    9.00 Registration & coffee

    9.25 Opening comments from the Chair
    Rob Sheldon, Managing Director, Accent Marketing & Research

    9.35 KEYNOTE: Embedding research and insight at the heart of the business to meet market challenges & drive customer centricity
    In a competitive market facing regulatory upheaval and negative customer sentiment, how does a utilities company step up to respond to these challenges whilst still delivering against commercial targets that shareholders demand? How can you bring uninterested people into the heart of a business? How do you even start a conversation with someone who is unengaged with what you have to say? And how do you deal with a regulator that demands you to educate and engage with these decision makers?

    This session will show how bringing together multiple behavioural data sets through advanced analytics, supplementary survey data and exploratory qualitative profiling helped EDF identify the different 'dimensions' that provided unique indicators around which an engagement strategy could be built and embedded.

    Simon Thompson, Managing Director, Relish
    Nick Eves, Senior Manager of Data Insight & Customer Research, EDF Energy

    10.00 PANEL: Triangulating customer evidence to build understanding of "what customers want"
    Ofwat has provided clear direction to water companies – that greater and more transparent triangulation of customer insight is required to provide a genuine understanding of customers' needs and expectations. In response, Thames Water has employed multiple techniques to build a comprehensive understanding of customers and adopted a robust and transparent approach to consolidating insights and disseminating them throughout the business. 

    This facilitated discussion will:
    Examine Thames Water's approach to triangulating customer evidence
    Demonstrate how Thames Water is responding to the regulator's challenge – using a robust and transparent insight     management approach – to inform a multi-billion pound business plan.

    Rob Sheldon, Managing Director, Accent Marketing & Research


    Andrew Burton, Research & Public Consultation Manager, Thames Water
    Ben Shimshon, Partner, BritainThinks
    Allan Provins, Director, eftec
    Gill Tishler, Independent member, Thames Water Customer Challenge Group

    10.30 PANEL: Harnessing insight to drive engagement with vulnerable customers
    Ofgem and Ofwat have recently released vulnerable customer strategies, stating that utility companies need to move away from 'simplistic labels of vulnerability, and to listen to their customers and understand their circumstances.' Hear the panel discuss how they have been responding to the challenge of engaging, building understanding and improving services for vulnerable customers.

    Developing understanding of the specific needs of vulnerable customers
    Building more effective support schemes that match customers' needs
    Encouraging take-up of support schemes that are in place

    Chaired by: 
    Sian Kerr, Research Director, FACTS


    Ali Sims, Research Director, DJS Research
    Andy Barker, Head of Qualitative, Populus
    Iain Pilling, Income and Debt Strategy Manager, United Utilities

    11.10 Morning refreshments & networking

    11.30 PANEL: How research is powering the smart revolution
    53 million smart electricity and gas meters will be installed in around 30 million households and small businesses by 2020. Customer engagement and enabling behaviour change are at the heart of the Smart Metering Implementation Programme. 

    In this session panellists will:
    Demonstrate how research is absolutely central to both government and industry's smart metering consumer engagement strategy
    Discuss the latest insights on how domestic consumers are responding to smart meters and what is the most effective way of driving behaviour change

    Chaired by: 
    Rich Lewis, Director, Decision Technology

    Mairi Budge, Head of Domestic Research, Smart Metering Implementation Programme, BEIS
    Antonia Dickman, Head of Energy and Environment Research, Ipsos MORI Social Research
    Bethan Thomas – Associate Partner, Sparkler
    Emily Townley-Jones, British Gas

    12.15 CASE STUDY SHOWCASE: Innovative customer research techniques to maximise customer engagement
    Companies will have ten minutes to share their innovative approach to customer research and engagement and to outline the benefits they have realised from employing these techniques. Each case study will be followed by Q&A.

    Your water world
    To meet the challenge of engaging customers on future plans for low interest services, Thames Water developed a customer engagement tool that draws inspiration from the world of gaming. Hear how the innovative solution can be used as both a public consultation device and as a research tool.

    Clare Carlaw, Stakeholder Relationship Manager, Thames Water
    Rebecca Weaving, Project Manager, Thames Water

    Engage and empower customers & stakeholders
    Ausgrid's new regulatory Reset Engagement & Empowerment Framework (REEF) has a radical emphasis on customer focus, continuous conversation, creative solutions, fairness, accountability and transparency. Hear how this approach which includes co-creation meetings with key stakeholders, a 24/7 online forum and ground-breaking customer research is driving customer engagement and empowerment to new levels.

    Paul Vittles, Customer & Stakeholder Engagement Manager, Ausgrid

    Customer immersive research
    To meet Ofwat's expectations of designing innovative customer research and in helping customers to consider long-term resilience and environmental challenges, United Utilities has designed an immersive research project. One element includes taking customers on a journey that helps them to imagine what it would be like to experience an interruption to their water supply of longer than five days. Another immerses customers on the environmental challenges that United Utilities faces. Examine the impact of this innovative approach on customer understanding of environmental issues.

    Anna Berry, Frontier Economics
    Sarah Jenner, Environmental Strategy Manager, United Utilities

    Maximising customer participation
    Northumbrian Water Group (NWG), which operates as Northumbrian Water and Essex & Suffolk Water has an enhanced customer engagement strategy, taking the role of customers from that of passive receivers of services to active participants; engaging with them in the design, consumption, disposal and enjoyment of water and wastewater services. Customer participation is at the heart of NWG's current research and engagement strategy.

    Explore how NWG is using customer participation to take insights gained from research and transform these into practical actions aligned to business objectives.

    Kim Davis, Managing Director, Explain
    Elaine Erskine, Strategic Research and Assurance Manager, Northumbrian Water Group (NWG)

    13.20 Lunch & networking

    14.20 DUAL PERSPECTIVE: How to make Britain a nation of energy shoppers?
    In 2016, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) published their energy market investigation which found that 70% of domestic customers of the 6 largest energy firms are still on an expensive 'default' standard variable tariff.

    This session will explore what measures Ofgem is taking to further stimulate competition and engage consumers in research. It will also examine the latest research into the barriers to switching for disengaged and vulnerable customers and discuss key actions for regulator and industry players on how to increase both engagement and switching.

    Bridget Williams, Director, GFK Social Research
    Beth Moon, Head of Behavioural Insight, Ofgem
    Patricia Rubio, Business Consultancy Director, Illuminas
    Alexander Belsham-Harris, Senior Policy Researcher, Citizens Advice

    15.00 DEBATE: Why complaints matter
    Ipsos MORI, Ombudsman Services (the Energy Ombudsman) and Resolver have been working together to explore how effective complaints handling and Customer Experience (CX) can build trust in the energy sector.

    This debate will explore:
    The impact that good handling of complaints has on loyalty and retention
    Changing the focus: Don’t count the number of times things go wrong, focus instead on the level of customer effort needed to put things right
    How a more insightful approach to complaints handling can help rebalance customer and company effort

    Jean-Francois Damais, Deputy Managing Director Global Client Solutions, Ipsos MORI
    Mark Bailey, Director of Business Management, Resolver
    Matthew Vickers -Deputy Chief Ombudsman, Ombudsman Services

    15.30 Afternoon refreshments & networking

    15.55 CASE STUDY: Changing customer behaviour to optimise energy network capacity
    Electricity demand in Great Britain is increasing and this presents new challenges to operators of electricity networks approaching capacity at peak times. Electricity North West worked with Impact Utilities to design the Power Saver Challenge (PSC) project which tested a range of incentivesto encourage customers to change their behaviourby reducing their electricity usageto alleviate pressure on the network at times of peak demand.

    Hear the key results from the PSC project which was highly commendedat the 2015 Business in the Community Awards and is now the focus of a new innovationproject at Electricity North West – ‘Power Saver Plus’.

    Dawn Mulvey, Research Director, Impact Utilities
    Jonathan Collins, Stakeholder & Corporate Social Responsibility Manager, Electricity North West

    16.15 CASE STUDY: Driving behaviour change amongst water & energy customers
    Behaviour change to help reduce household water and energy consumption is critical to enable reductions in the UK’s carbon footprint and help consumers reduce bills. In partnership with Scottish Water, Aqualogic and Etive Technologies, the Energy Saving Trust has been conducting trials with Scottish households exploring:

    • Understanding of water use (including energy use to heat hot water) and
    • The degree to which improvements in awareness, knowledge and behaviour were achieved when homeowners were provided with water saving devices, advice, or a combination of both.

    As part of the evaluation of the trial, Databuild conducted an impact assessment via telephone surveys including quantitative and qualitative questions. The evaluation found improved knowledge, behaviour and attitudes for those involved in the trials. Furthermore, where the householder received advice as well as water saving devices, the evidence suggests that householders became more interested in resource efficiency and were more likely to retain / use the devices and therefore achieve greater savings.

    A very high degree of engagement and satisfaction was achieved with trial participants, suggesting this work can inform the wider community around best practice to drive behaviour change amongst householders.

    Michelle Hollier, Director of Research and Consulting Databuild Consulting
    Dr. David McElroy, Evaluation Manager, Energy Saving Trust

    16.35 Closing comments from the Chair

    16.45 Drinks reception

    This is the other tab

    Please click on the photographs to view each speaker's biography.

    Delegate fee until 28 July 2017

    MRS Member £355 (£426 inc VAT)
    Non-Member £485 (£582 inc VAT)

    Please note: Early Bird fees must be paid in full by 28.07.17

    Delegate fee from 29 July 2017

    MRS Member £455 (£546 inc VAT)
    Non-Member £585 (£702 inc VAT)

    Company Partner Discount rate - £325 (£390 inc VAT) or 1 Company Partner ticket


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