Accent MR Accent

How Is the Covid 19 Crisis Impacting Water customers?

The Covid 19 crisis is likely to impact customers in different ways, not only in terms of affordability but also how they use water and how they interact with and view different suppliers and brands. To help understand their customers’ experiences South East Water has commissioned the team at Accent to undertake qualitative and quantitative research through the upheaval of the current Covid 19 crisis and beyond. We were already working with South East Water, Southern Water and the Behavioural Insights Team on a joint project to study water usage behaviours and to test behavioural change techniques. South East Water then asked us to add more households to the study and requested that lockdown behaviours should be studied specifically.

Andy Clowes, Head of Customer Insight and Strategy at South East Water, describes the project as “getting under the skin of customer attitudes in a situation for which there is no forecasting equivalent”.

The qualitative element of the project is varied with full interviews taking place every 3 weeks. Between interviews, households are keeping daily diaries, filming video diaries on their current mood and their lives in lockdown as well as being set specific tasks such as water saving exercises or understanding how attitudes towards suppliers across a range of sectors is evolving. This will continue through the lockdown and the plan is to revisit the households sometime after the danger has passed, to see how attitudes may have changed.

To add a quantitative dimension, Accent has conducted online interviews with 400 customers now, and will speak to 400 more at some point in the future when more ordinary circumstances have returned.

South East plans to share its results with the sector once they are in, as well as other regional organisations that may find them helpful in serving customers better.

Accent managing director Rob Sheldon points out that the depth of this study, with the very regular tracking of customer sentiment, is what sets it aside from more usual research. Referring to the impact of COVID-19, he says: “There’s lots of stats out there, lots of people finding soundbites. But this is ‘stats plus’ and offers understanding of the underlying ways people’s views have changed.”

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