MRS Utilities Conference 2017

October 27, 2017

MRS Utilities conference was full of energy!


Last month in London, the Market Research Society (MRS) held the first MRS Utilities Research conference. The day was attended by Distribution Network Operators (DNOs), energy suppliers, Gas Distribution Network Operators (GDNs), Water suppliers, consumer groups and market research experts (including Impact Utilities of course!). This debut conference aimed to showcase and disseminate innovative approaches to customer engagement and satisfaction.

Through a variety of excellent presentations and panels, it was evident that:


  • The industry is evolving and so should engagement methods

  • Ofwat and Ofgem want to see data to support customer engagement and satisfaction


We were proud to be Gold Sponsors at the conference, facilitating debate, the sharing of knowledge and building awareness of the essential public consultation and engagement required within these unique industries.


Head of Impact Utilities, Dawn Mulvey, shared learnings from the Power Saver Challenge with industry leaders



Dawn Mulvey, Head of Impact Utilities, presented alongside Jonathan Collins, Electricity North West’s Stakeholder & Corporate Social Responsibility Manager, to share the findings of a ground-breaking Power Save Challenge project. It used a variety of Omni-channel techniques and methodologies to encourage communities to save energy within the home.


The project proved that sustained behavioural change is possible. Successful outcomes are driven by being innovative with communication methods (everything from leaflets, to public meetings, to using a caravan to draw attention!), triangulating data, and engaging with community groups from the start. The research was even recognised for a national award:


Business in the Community.  Dawn loves to talk about the project and the importance of bringing out long-term behavioural change, so drop her an email on to find out more.



Some of the other great initiatives happening within the sector?


Immersive approaches are working: One example is from United Utilities who created and designed sets for customer research participation. It was a huge hit. Topics were bought alive through physical materials, such as a model farm for visualising river quality issues, and newspaper boards showing potential headlines. Helping customers to ‘step-in’ the environment aids understanding (and fun; after all, we want to hear from stakeholders, we want them to participate in research).


Negative customer sentiment is a simple equation: If customers are working harder to resolve issues with their energy or water supply/service, than their suppliers, customers will not be happy. This was clear from the latest Resolver and the Ombudsman research. With Citizen’s advice actively encouraging consumers to visit market comparison sites, and leave services for a better deal, utility companies need to ensure that they are putting in the most effort.


Vulnerable customers’ voice is important: Yorkshire Water have been working hard to listen to their vulnerable stakeholders. They learnt that safeguarding these customers involves practical assistance, financial support/advice and good communications. Regulators are demanding that Fuel Poor and vulnerable customers need to be heard – are you doing enough to listen and support these stakeholders in your region?


Engagement doesn’t mean bombarding with communication: Two projects conducted independently by EDF and Northumbrian Water explored which topics generate interest amongst customers, what they expect and what makes them satisfied when it comes to communication. In short, they discovered the importance to asking stakeholders the following: what do you expect to be told, what would you like to be told, and what should we simply get on with? Knowing communication needs for each of your customer segments is essential. Don’t assume you know what they want, after all, we all know what that phrase leads to…


So much more to know...


If you want to talk to us about either the Power Saver Challenge work with Electricity North West, other ground-breaking pieces we are working on, or the conference itself,  please visit our latest case studies on our website, review our posts on LinkedIn, or call Dawn directly on 01932 226793. We look forward to hearing from you!




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