The water industry was deregulated in 2017, but many consumers still aren’t taking advantage of switching. Everflow Tech’s chief technology officer Paul Williams explains how technology could be a game changer for the sector.
In 1989, the water industry was privatised by the Conservative Government of the time.
Since then, around £160bn has been pumped into the market, bringing with it improved drinking water, fewer leaks, and the return of wildlife has rivers that had been biologically dead since the Industrial Revolution.
However, what was lacking in that time was competition, but that all changed when the water industry was deregulated in 2017 - the biggest change to the sector in nearly three decades.
In practice, deregulation means that the UK’s 1.2 million businesses, charities and public sector organisations in England are no longer restricted to buying water services from their regional supplier.
Much as they can for gas and electric, consumers can now shop around, renegotiate, and find the best deal for them. And, if they’re not happy with the service they’re receiving, they can just leave.
But, in reality, how many of them are doing so? Not as many as you’d think.
In its most recent State of The Market Report, water regulator Ofwat found that just under eight per cent of eligible customers were active in the last 12 months, although this rose to 16 per cent of larger SMEs and up to 26 per cent of those firms with more than 250 employees. However, the annual rate of switching and/or re‑negotiating remained steady at around four per cent
A number of barriers were found to be responsible for the reluctance to switch – to put it into context, nearly a quarter of gas and electricity consumers changed provided in the past year – with too much effort and insufficient savings being cited as the main two.
For brokers too, commission for switching water supplier may be much lower, while the system for doing so was long-winded and inefficient.
It was into this market that Everflow Tech – which, along with supplier Everflow Water makes up Everflow Group - was born, when the team identified a number of challenges faced by other water retailers in the newly deregulated English market.
Quotations could take them a week to produce, billing software had to be manually updated with market data, and they were unable to manage the complete customer journey (from contract to latest bill) in one place, which took time, cost money and allowed for human error.
At Everflow Group we have one simple mission - to make utilities simple - and so we knew there had to be a better way.
Our vision is to bring the industry into a new age, an age of first-class customer experience, automation and simplicity for all stakeholders – from customers and brokers to employees.
And this was how Everflow Tech came about; an award-winning retail sales, billing and customer management platform for the water retail market, which has resulted in Everflow Water becoming the UK’s fastest organically growing retailer.
Everflow Tech exists to provide great software to utilities through experience; we have lots of people who truly understand the market, so we have the ability to design software that is nuanced to the needs of the sector.
From the concept on, our software meets the requirements utilities have.
Our innovative retail management and billing platform acts as a one-stop-shop for data management, features an instant quotation generator allowing for quick sales, and utilises automation to increase efficiencies across all processes – and now we want to share it.
However, in keeping with our mission of simplicity, we wanted to offer retailers what they wanted, when they wanted.
It became clear that a number of retailers we were speaking to wanted elements of the full suite of Everflow Tech software which would solve specific sticking points, without investing in the comprehensive product. Therefore, to make its features easily accessible, we’ve split out those modules – the first of which being Simple Quoting, which has proven popular because it significantly boosts sales potential.
Simple Quoting plugs in seamlessly to any organisation in the right way – and it will work. It will quote every SPID in the system and it will do it quickly and efficiently do it fast. Because we know that if a broker has a great experience, the customer has a great experience.
As Smarter Business’s Liz Bell told us: “The Simple Quoting tool is the only reason we sell water.
“Previously, we wouldn’t bother with water sales as the process took too long to provide a worthwhile return on investment.
“With Simple Quoting it’s quick, simple and accessible from anywhere, plus we’ve found that offering all three utilities to our customers boosts our overall sales, making offering water to our customers a quick money-maker.”
But the Simple Quoting Tool is just the start. Overall, our long-term objective is to create a truly automated retailer, so that everybody can focus on the customer experience.
And that’s why we’ve launched it to the retail market – because ultimately, this isn’t about doing what’s best for Everflow.
It’s about doing what’s best for the consumer.