In March 2020, when the lockdown was announced, Castle Water was concerned that its UK business water customers would face ongoing water bills, in many cases while having no revenue.
Castle Water CEO, John Reynolds, explained:
We identified a provision in the regulatory arrangements which allowed charges to be waived where customers were required by law to close.
Although this hadn’t been intended to be used in these circumstances, we saw no reason for this not to be applied. We met opposition from regulators in applying this, and no other water supplier nationally was using it, but Castle Water pushed ahead and started to remove charges from customers who we knew were required to close.
Unlike most water retailers, Castle Water is not associated with any water network owners. As a wholly independent retailer, we’re uniquely positioned to challenge network owner decisions and work proactively with them to give our customers the right service, at the right price, and fight for cost reductions while providing quality customer care.
Despite significant initial opposition, we managed in April 2020 to reach an agreement to use this mechanism and we were able to stop charging many of our business water customers for the lockdown.
We implemented a rigorous communications plan to inform our customers of their options during the pandemic, whether they were closing or opening their businesses, what they needed to do and how Castle Water could help them. The first Castle Water blog post and mailing to customers on this topic were in the week beginning 16 March 2020.
Castle Water manually corrected bills for 61,300 customers, resulting on savings of £6 million for our customers. Committed to taking a long-term view of customer relationships and to doing as much as possible to help its customers, Castle Water pressed on, negotiating further operational challenges.
John said, “We knew that the impact on us would be to increase our costs – we had to carry out double the level of normal invoicing and customer service, but despite the increased cost believe that this was the right approach to support our customers during such a difficult period.
The ground-breaking approach Castle Water took was then copied across England, resulting in total estimated customer savings of £24 million.
Castle Water adopted a ‘working from home’ structure ahead of government mandates, a decision that proved crucial to continuity of service for the company’s customers. Within 3 days, all 411 of our employees, excluding a small team for essential office tasks, were working effectively and safely from home.
Castle Water’s phone lines remained open, and we quickly deployed more people to handle webchats; preferred by many of our customers as they too transitioned to work from home.
Between April 2020 and May 2021, over 21,000 Castle Water customers said they were happy with our webchat service, 74% of all those who reviewed used webchat when volumes of contact were up to 80% above average levels.
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