Home Australia Finding out what the customer wants turns up a few surprises

Finding out what the customer wants turns up a few surprises

Finding out what the customer wants turns up a few surprises

Australia’s monopoly water utilities are being pushed by regulators to employ more time paying attention to their customers, and the results can be gorgeous.

Key aspects:

  • Australia’s largest water supplier is starting an experiment in “kitchen table” consultation
  • Utility monopolies are being told by regulators to engage more with customers
  • When given time to mediate some customers purchase action on climate change and serving to the vulnerable over cheaper payments

Pat McCafferty is the general manager of a enterprise that supplies water to two million folks in Melbourne.

Early Newspaper

His company, Yarra Valley Water, employed a consultancy agency, newDemocracy, to speed a route of just lately that enabled customers to take a deep dive into the challenges facing the enterprise and answer some very inaugurate-ended questions about the future value of their water.

Mr McCafferty said he was fearful about how it may well work. 

“On the very first night of the jury route of, I felt savor I was handing the keys to the car to my teenage son because we really went all-in on letting the neighborhood information the route of and make the key selections.”

In the stay, despite customers playing a major goal in developing the utility’s submission to the pricing regulator, it did now not lead to reduced costs for customers.

Pat McCafferty

Patrick McCafferty says customers suggested they pay fairly more for improved environmental measures.(

Supplied: Yarra Valley Water


Customers valued saving water

According to Pat McCafferty, when participants had time to mediate deeply about the points, they came up with other priorities, savor support for the vulnerable.

“Whilst you are struggling to pay your invoice,  these of us who aren’t [struggling] are prepared to pay more for programs that support these folks.”

They also wanted the utility to make investments in environmental programs that concerned saving water and responding to climate change, given Melbourne customers had managed to reduce consumption at some stage in the last drought.

A waste to energy plant

Customers are eager to support plans to route of commercial meals waste into renewable vitality.(

Supplied: Yarra Valley Water


A global experiment

Iain Walker from consultancy newDemocracy has been watching the pattern of latest models of consultation around the world.

The Organisation for Financial Co-operation and Pattern (OECD), for example, has encouraged the pattern of Freedom of Information laws and is now supporting more meaningful and inaugurate models of consultation.

“The OECD released a major document [in 2020] called “Catching the Deliberative Wave“, and all we really mean by that is asking folks what they mediate when they’ve had time to mediate.”

Mr Walker said it was a very varied route of from the days of the extinct metropolis hall assembly. 

He said it was time to start posing inaugurate questions and even asking folks what questions they wished to have answered to really feel confident in the resolution.

Titanic water supplier takes up the experiment

The nation’s largest water supplier, Water Recent South Wales, launched a similar “bottom-up” consultation route of.

The utility has to pass to the Self reliant Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) in 2025 with a submission on pricing, and in the past, that has generally led to rate rises, something that has alarmed irrigators.

A Water NSW bill listing the different charges

Understanding a water invoice can be demanding, even for knowledgeable operators. (

Supplied: Water NSW


Nevertheless this time, Water Recent South Wales is making an attempt a “bottom-up” approach to manufacture its submission.

Kitchen table conversations

Jonathan Dickson from Water NSW is a little more hesitant about “handing over the keys”.

Two farmers walk along the edge of a dam

Farmers are being encouraged to deliberate at size with each other before making submissions to Water NSW about how a lot they may level-headed pay in 2025. (

Supplied: Water NSW


While Yarra Valley Water asked a group of 36 customers to give up five Saturdays to wade thru a route of, Water NSW is asking its purchasers to dwelling up their cling “kitchen table” conversations to answer to a sequence of questions. 

They will have access to information from Water NSW plus un-edited submissions from the Commonwealth Water Holder, the NSW Farmers Association and the irrigators association, and they will have two months to mediate about a response. 

It is far the starting of a three-year route of that will eventually dwelling the mark for farmers, large enterprise, small cities and major cities throughout NSW.

Finding out what the customer wants turns up a few surprises