Duncan Bennett

Duncan Bennett

Yorkshire Water


"Clearly the best Water Company in the UK?"

Some might think this is a vision too far for a company bottom of its industry's customer service league table. However, Yorkshire Water did go from tenth out of ten to first in six years, and from being one of the most hated companies in the UK in 1996 to winning a string of customer service awards and being judged UK Utility Company of the year in both 2004 and 2005. Background Yorkshire Water is Kelda Group's principal UK subsidiary and is the ninth largest water utility in the world, providing clean and waste water services to more than 4.7 million people and 140,000 businesses throughout the Yorkshire region. The company supplies 1.3 billion litres of drinking water, and collects, treats and disposes of 1 billion litres of waste water every day, employing more than 2,000 people, including 700 field engineers performing 1 million jobs a year.


Privatized in 1989, Yorkshire Water operates as a monopoly supplier in a tightly regulated environment. In 1995, there was a major drought in the UK and Yorkshire Water handled customer communications badly. In 1996, a national newspaper survey rated it one of the most hated companies in the UK. By 1998, the company had slipped to bottom of the OFWAT (UK Water Industry Regulator) customer service league table. When the company consulted its own customers, it found disturbing levels of dissatisfaction. At the same time, Yorkshire Water went through a price review with the regulator, resulting in the imposition of a 15 percent reduction.


This case study will review the fully integrated programme of business change and IT investment that has transformed the customer service and operational performance of this monopoly water utility. At the heart of the solution is a new class leading IT infrastructure, designed to support fully integrated business processes for managing field activities and linking, in real time, the company's customer contact centre with field technicians. The primary focus of the presentation will not be the technology, but rather the business challenge and cultural change necessary to underpin the success of this ambitious programme.