Turning the tide: Unipart turns water utility from worst to best

It’s no secret that the water companies have had a tough time: under-resourcing, generations of skimped infrastructure, the forces of nature. The floodgates of challenge have been wide open, and call centres swamped with complaints.

One utility – engaged Unipart and within 36 months, the tide had turned on its water and waste water problems.

The issue was a near 120-day wait for some leakage repairs to be started, let alone finished. Then there was the distraction of fewer than 40% of all complaint calls being resolved first time. What’s more, lead time on faults reported by customers was more than a week.

Three years after Unipart stepped in, leak repairs were dealt with within five days at most, and fault repairs nailed in two days compared to eight. 80% of customer complaint calls were dealt with first time.

How? By talking, and empowering people who knew their stuff, but were previously stifled. The new core of the utility’s management team teamed up with Unipart’s experienced problem solvers to develop an operational plan, and, crucially, an approach to internal communication that meant cells of issue-specific people reviewed performance against targets and drove continual improvement.

They also empowered call centre staff to find their own answers to complaint resolution, and trained 50 staff to adopt and develop the utility’s version of the Unipart Way: they liberated their initiative to sustain a programme of continual improvement.

Three years earlier, it had been, quite simply, the worst water utility in the UK. As a consequence of Unipart’s involvement, it has become one of the best.