Vulnerability strategy 2024

Our vulnerability strategy, every customer matters, is co-created and endorsed by our customers, partners, organisations, charities and stakeholders.

This page highlights some of the key areas that make up our strategy.

An electronic copy of our full vulnerability strategy is available to download.


Our vulnerability strategy, every customer matters, is co-created and endorsed by our customers, partners and stakeholders.

The strategy, which is updated annually, sets out our:

  • ethos, values and approach to customer care
  • commitments and targets to 2030
  • services for customers who need extra help (financial and non-financial)
  • four workstreams to raise awareness and increase uptake of our support schemes
  • current and future initiatives and achievements so far
  • case studies to showcase our work.

Our ethos – every customer matters

Vulnerability can be short or long-term. It may be due to age, physical, or mental illness, literacy, unemployment, digital exclusion, or a sudden change in circumstances, like a bereavement or divorce.

The aim of our strategy is to build a service on the basis that every customer matters, always. It is focused on delivering excellent customer service and customer care tailored to the individual.

The values that inform our strategy

We are committed to:

  • delivering customer care and service tailored to the individual
  • ensuring our service is inclusive and accessible to all
  • giving staff the tools, training, confidence and awareness to deal with complex situations
  • working closely with other customer support organisations across our region.

And in terms of financial vulnerability specifically, we:

  • believe that water use should not be rationed by a customer’s ability to pay – no one should be in water poverty
  • encourage engagement with financially vulnerable customers
  • build relationships of mutual trust with debt advice agencies/partners
  • support a holistic approach to debt management
  • offer tailored solutions with flexibility to meet individuals’ financial circumstances
  • prefer a sustainable and affordable level of payment of whatever size to no payment at all.
Wessex Water Customer Inspector smiling

What ‘every customer matters’ means in practice

Going the extra mile

Going the extra mile (GEM) sums up our approach to customer service and putting ‘customers at the heart’. We encourage staff to put themselves in the customer’s shoes and give them the confidence to achieve the best outcome for that customer.

Our staff are trained to quickly recognise when a customer may need extra help and react in a way that provides immediate support. Also, our frontline staff in both our call centre and collections teams have been through specialist training to help spot and understand the signs of financial difficulty and find the best solution for the customer depending on their financial circumstances.

Showing compassion. Being caring and sensitive. Thinking beyond just the situation at hand. Feeling empowered to do whatever it takes. Tailoring our service to the individual. These are vital to our ability to support customers who need extra help.

Accessible for everyone

We aim to deliver great customer service and customer care tailored to the individual with a service that is inclusive and accessible to all.

Customers communicate with us through their channel of choice and we make sure we use their preferred channel in our proactive communication, eg, during a break in the water supply. Our Customer Care team also directly supports customers on Priority Services during such incidents. Through Priority Services, we provide additional methods of communication, which include:

  • Relay UK text service
  • home visits
  • a nominee to communicate on the customer’s behalf
  • an interpreter through LanguageLine or SignLive
  • bills and other communication in another format or language.

We are also committed to making our website accessible. We’ve used Recite Me to allow our customers to customise the site in a way that works for them. Any YouTube video we produce has a Closed Caption (CC) option for subtitles.

We want our services to be accessible to all. As we are not prescriptive about how customers should contact us, we don’t exclude anyone.

Looking for signs of vulnerability

We improve the skills and knowledge of our telephone and field staff through specialist training, often developed and delivered by our advice partners. This includes Dementia Friends, mental health awareness, spotting the signs of financial difficulty and vulnerability, bereavement training, suicide awareness and deaf awareness.

We focus on the quality of the interaction rather than the speed of the response. This ensures our staff have time to spend with customers with more complex needs.

Training ensures our staff are sensitive, compassionate and confident when it comes to dealing with difficult and often complex situations, but crucially they can spot signs when things aren’t right and encourage disclosure from customers. They are trained in the use of non-judgemental listening and appropriate language.

Providing an inclusive service

Some customers need a much more tailored service from us to meet their needs. To get this right we comply with best practice guidance from our regulators and other organisations.

We hold the British Standard for Inclusive Service Provision and the Customer Service Excellence award to ensure we continue to provide the very best care for our customers.

We have engaged with and received endorsement from 53 organisations (local and national) who have reviewed the service we promise to offer now, and in the future, and allowed us to use their logos as a stamp of approval.

We have also received the Gold Award for two years running from Bristol Dementia Action Alliance as a proud dementia-aware organisation and are the first water company to obtain Partner Status from Stop Loan Sharks.

Commitments and aims – to 2025

Find out how we have performed, as of March 2024, against our commitments and aims for 2025.

Commitments and aims – to 2030

We set out our proposed approach to tackle water poverty and better support those who need extra help in our Business Plan for 2025-2030.

Working with our Vulnerability Advisory Panel and taking account of customers’ views, we have set out some specific commitments and aims for 2030.

Four workstreams to proactively raise awareness and uptake

We have four very well established workstreams that consist of innovative initiatives to maximise awareness, increase uptake of the extra help we provide and improve the customer experience.

1. Using data wisely

This workstream helps us assess the effectiveness and uptake of our support and identify and target activity proactively and effectively.

Customer service employee smiling with a headset on

2. Growing partnerships

This workstream is designed to increase the number and variety of our partners, while also helping them to find the best way to engage with their clients, who are our customers.

Employee's having a meeting

3. Community engagement

This workstream allows us to extend our reach and engagement across communities to break down barriers to support those who might otherwise not have been heard.

Employee Talking To Customers

4. Improving the customer experience

This workstream aims to make it as easy as possible for customers to hear about and access our support through the channel of their choice, as well as ensuring they have an excellent customer experience.

Customer smiling in kitchen

Within the strategy we set out the initiatives we have delivered to date and what we’re planning to deliver in the future through each of the four workstreams. We have mapped each initiative to the principles or objectives set out in Ofwat’s Service for all and Paying Fair Guidance.

Our promises to customers who need extra help

Vulnerability comes in many forms and extra help might be needed for a short or long time. Some customers need extra help when dealing with us day to day, others need help with their bills and some need both.

So, we have designed and delivered flexible, tailored additional services to meet the widest possible range of customers’ needs now and into the future through Priority Services and our Tailored Assistance Programme (TAP).

Our tailored approach includes:

  • delivery of bottled water during a break in the water supply. We will call to check if this is needed and try to plan any breaks in the water supply around customers’ medical needs. We will look at wider support if customers are out of water for any length of time
  • communication and bills in a different format or language, that is jargon free and written in plain English
  • a variety of ways for customers to get in touch. These include our Live Chat service, dedicated language line, sign language translation and Text Relay
  • additional meter readings and free relocation of the meter if needed
  • knock and wait or password service if we visit a customer in their home
  • a carer, friend, family member or other nominated contact to liaise with us on a customer’s behalf. We encourage our customers to set up a Power of Attorney where appropriate
  • low-rate tariffs and schemes to reduce ongoing water bills and repay debt as well as practical advice around water and energy use. Our teams will signpost to these schemes at every opportunity.

We have used the insight from our stakeholders and partners to agree the extra help we might typically give to certain groups of customers. Customers can fall into more than one group and may need more or less extra help from us. We encourage customers at every opportunity to sign up to Priority Services and/or TAP so we can tailor our service for them.

Read the full strategy

Download our full strategy for more insight into what we are doing to support customers who need extra help.

Previous vulnerability strategy

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