Sydney Water moves to put the customer first

Cover story


Sydney Water has embarked on a fundamental shift to put its customers at the heart of how it operates. Keith Hayward heard from Michael Storey about the utility’s innovative Customer Experience Design programme.

Sydney Opera House. Credit: Leelakajonkij /
Sydney Opera House. Credit: Leelakajonkij /

Water utilities are dominated to such an extent by the networks and infrastructure they own and operate to deliver their service that it is understandable they see themselves and behave as asset-focused organisations. Sydney Water, though, is aiming to take a different approach. It has set its sights on becoming a customer-focused organisation, with the experience customers have of their interactions with the Australian utility at the heart of the way it works.

Customer service is certainly not new, but Dr Michael Storey, of Sydney Water’s corporate strategy team, points to a 2009 study by Bain and Co that highlighted the huge gap that can exist between the extent to which an organisation thinks it is giving customers what they want and the actual view of those customers. ‘95% of organisations say that they are customer focused and 80% say they deliver a superior experience – yet only 8% of their customers actually agree,’ says Storey of the study findings.

To break from that type of misalignment, Sydney Water is taking a human-centred design approach which, Storey explains, uses ‘outside-in’ thinking to shape what the utility delivers at each customer interaction or ‘touch-point’. ‘This is done by blending design thinking and business strategy to create an outstanding service experience that is consistent through every touch-point,’ he says.

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  • utility management, Australia, Sydney Water