Until recently most water utilities have operated as a public service. The market is still predominantly a natural monopoly. The significant infrastructure requirements militate against service duplication and competition. Generally customers do not have the option of changing service providers. With the arrival of competition policy, water utilities have initiated some customer service programmes. However, the driver for this change has been the reporting requirements of the regulator rather than customer focused imperatives.

However, there are benefits for water service companies to conduct professional market research focused on customer satisfaction. This paper reviews the concepts of market customer satisfaction analysis. It discusses the shortfalls of generic methodologies which focus on the performance of the service provider rather than the needs and expectations of the customer. The application of Benchmarking or Best Practice, is also reviewed within this context.

A conclusion of this paper is that the application of focused, professional customer satisfaction analysis is an effective quality management tool and leads to a better understanding of water services customers’ needs and expectations. The outcome is more effective application of customer service resources, enhanced community perceptions and the achievement of higher levels of customer satisfaction.

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