Making customer data work for a leading water provider


Making customer data work for a leading water provider

When bad debt posed a huge challenge for our client, we helped them keep track of their customers and better engage with late-payers. Today, customer data is stronger, bad debt is dwindling and staff bring an understanding approach to debt repayment.

The situation

Our client is the sole supplier of water and wastewater to the UK’s densely populated capital. With a constantly shifting population, and more renters than homeowners, the business was struggling to keep track of customers – especially those who weren’t paying their bills. And a legacy system meant customer data wasn’t up to the task.

The solution

Together with partners Arum, we instigated the biggest retail transformation our client had seen in 15 years. Our capability assessment led to a multi-pronged strategy:


  • A complete refresh of customer data
  • All 3.2m household customer data records were replaced with accurate records of customer names and addresses
  • More capable systems
  • Including enhanced front-end data capture, an improved debt management system, and fully integrated and updated contact channels
  • Creative customer segmentation
  • Better data helped us develop four creative personas so staff could personalise their customer service
  •  Better colleague communication
  • A new slogan and branding for the Bill to Cash team – ‘Show you care. Be debt aware’ – embedded a more appropriate, understanding approach to debt collection
  • Transformation through training
  • Staff at sites across the UK, India and Africa benefitted from over 1,500 hours of face-to-face training



The result


  • A sustainably high-performance team. As the Bill to Cash team grows, the training remains focussed, with a new workshop curriculum to tackle core areas of learning
  • Improved customer contact. Even before the new system went live, we’d enabled customers to receive SMS reminders of bills
  • Fully-informed customer interactions. Staff can now see the whole picture of a customer’s situation, including all transactions
  • More bills paid. Bad debt was 3.6% of revenue in 2014-15. That figure fell by 0.5% in 2015-16 – a massive gain in real terms
  • Permanent transformation. Bad debt continues to fall and services continue to improve. Thames Water aims to reduce bad debt to 2.4% of revenue over five years