Watershed moments: a focus on customer will reshape urban water delivery

This week, I presented at Ozwater19, the sold out water conference held at the Melbourne Convention Centre. I was delighted to be there amongst 1400 water industry stakeholders – many expressing strong interest in future water industry products, services and solutions.

Front and centre of the conference discussion was the customer with my work part of ‘Voice of the Customer’ segment. Together with Evelyn Rodrigues from Water Services of Association Australia (WSAA), we posed the key questions: who are the customers of the future, what do they want, and how can water utilities best serve them? There was strong interest in the answers from a standing room only gathering of water industry leaders eager to know more about customers. It was a watershed moment to experience their strong interest in the theme.

Water availability, sustainability and delivery are key issues for all of us. Right now, the KPMG water utilities team is working on answers to these key questions and helping the firm’s clients understand how urban water can best be delivered today and tomorrow. That includes supporting water utilities as they transition from a reactive to a proactive business model.

For our water customer research, KPMG and our client, the Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA), reviewed existing segmentation research and interviewed a range of customers to create six personas that represent the urban water customers of the future.

These range from the ‘mindful millennial’ – an individual interested in technology and less concerned about her consumption levels – to the ‘stable and secure pensioner’ who is actively engaged in the community.’

I believe that our world is rapidly moving into the ‘age of the customer’, where industries that not only meet rapidly changing customer expectations but can pre-empt their every need will be the ones equipped to survive as automation and smart infrastructure reimagine cities and experiences. This is nowhere more true than in the water industry especially given the impacts of climate change to the liveability of our cities and communities.

No matter the demographic, the future customer will expect an empathetic, personalised service from a proactive service provider who supports their local community and protects future generations.

Such water sector developments as the uptake of digital metering are providing a further rich source of data on customer behaviour in the sector – which in turn will drive improved choice, efficiencies and a better customer experience.

As individuals, businesses and as a society, we want to ensure we are equipped to survive as automation and smart infrastructure reimagine cities and experiences.

What’s more, Australia’s changing population, which will see a generation of baby boomers retiring, the growing influence of millennials and new migrants settling in some regions is going to demand very different services and infrastructure in the future. It will be about not just accommodating water needs but also ensuring solutions are sustainable and address the complex demands of climate change.

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