Anna Berry, consultant at Frontier Economics, today spoke at a Market Research Society (MRS) conference on how behavioural economics insights can be used to design innovative customer research in the utilities industries. Anna presented the customer research she recently designed for United Utilities (UU), a water and wastewater company, alongside Sarah Jenner, from UU. In their talk, Anna and Sarah highlighted the fact that most customers are not familiar with the services that water companies provide, and have not experienced many of the service disruptions that UU works to avoid. They explained how this makes customer research in the water sector challenging, but that insights from behavioural economics can be used to address these challenges in an innovative way. The results from their study will help UU to inform how it prioritises investments in its next business plan.
To conduct this project – the first immersive customer research on resilience and environmental issues in the water sector – Frontier facilitated a collaborative research team combining economists, a creative agency, and market researchers.
The research was based on a series of workshops with UU customers. One workshop was designed to help customers imagine what it would be like to experience a long-term supply interruption, which involved customers rationing water across household activities and dashing around a supermarket aisle picking items they would want in that situation. Another workshop included a miniature model farm, which helped customers to see how UU could work with farmers to reduce the amount of pollution that goes into rives. Throughout the project, Frontier advised on how behavioural economics could be applied to increase the cognitive validity of the research, and to tailor it to best meet Ofwat’s expectations and deliver United Utilities with the information needed to develop its business plan.
Frontier regularly advises companies on how behavioural economics insights can be applied to design innovative and valid customer research.
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