How Scottish Water empowers its people during a crisis

As a publicly owned company, Scottish Water is answerable to the Scottish Parliament and the people of Scotland. With 3,400 employees providing service to over 5 million customers, Scottish Water’s vision is to be ‘Trusted to Serve Scotland’.

As winners in the ‘Managing your People’ category at last year’s UK Complaint Handling Awards, we’re sharing how this inspirational company has empowered its people to deliver an exceptional service during operational incidents. Such incidents range from reports of no water through to major mains bursting and the associated flooding.

Doing the right thing

Such events can cause significant emotional distress for customers who may have to leave their family home. In recent years Scottish Water has evolved its Field Response team processes to put the customer first when these stressful events happen. Previously the team responded in a reactive manner to fulfil their statutory duties - now their aim is to 'do the right thing'. The judges of this category were impressed with the company’s dedication to helping their customers deal with these occurrences and wrote in the finalist’s feedback form:

“This is a publicly owned company and I have marked a number of areas high as they have demonstrated that they are now putting the customer first and at the heart of everything they do. Budgets are secondary, meaning that there is little conflict of interest between doing the right thing and meeting any specific cost margin. Very impressive entry.”

Taking a proactive approach during testing events

The Field Response team are empowered to take a proactive approach during testing events to ensure Scottish Water is trusted to serve Scotland. Managing a budget on site is no longer a primary concern as this can result in the wrong behaviours, instead, the team efficiently use funds to ‘go the extra mile’. The dynamic model is subject to change depending on the operational incident and all the team participate in ‘I am Scottish Water’ training to ensure they put the customer’s needs first.

The Field Response team in action

The new innovative process was put into practice earlier this year during an incident where a 27-inch water main burst causing extensive flooding to 29 properties and 10 vehicles. Upon arrival on site, staff were able to take control implementing actions including:

  • Arranging immediate hotel accommodation to let customers get some rest and privacy
  • Arrange for Scottish Water to provide hire cars where applicable to prevent customers having to arrange this via their insurance company
  • Organise food and welfare while hotel accommodation was being arranged
  • Apply new claim procedures to minimise financial impact on customers
  • Take children to school
  • Spend time with families to build relationships and trust.

Exceeding service targets

Thanks to the passionate team doing the right thing, Scottish Water has exceeded its Overall Performance Assessment (OPA) targets in line with its regulator, the Water Industry Commission for Scotland. The water provider committed to a challenging objective of 380 points in 2015/16 and smashed this with an outturn of 393 – set to be best in class with an OPA score of 400 by 2020/21. The improved response to incidents has also drastically reduced the number of formal complaints received. Our judge wrote:

“Scottish Water has clearly gone to considerable lengths to engage with their customers to determine and respond to their needs. I was impressed with the agility and welfare aspects of the local incident team, and the trend in the OPA score was also noteworthy.”

If your team are empowered to go the extra mile for customers, gain recognition for your innovative approach at the UK Complaint Handling Awards! View the categories here.