During our engagement with you for our price submission, you’ve provided us with some great ideas about our charges and what we should be delivering for our community in the next 5-10 years - so together we can shape the future.

This has been done in a number of stages. Throughout, what you told us has helped shaped the next stage.

 

Post–submission​

You’re invited by the ESC to have your say on our proposals for the next 5 years. 

 

Closing the loop (stage 5)

Hear from our community panel  

We also recently caught up up with our community panel. Over 6 sessions in late 2021, our 34 panel members played a critical role in developing 8 We recommendations for us to consider, and we wanted to share how these had been considered and to thank them for their efforts.  

During our meeting in May 2022, we took panel members through how their recommendations had helped shape a number of our proposals.  

It was great to hear panel members tell us they felt they’d been listened to and that they felt comfortable that their recommendations were reflected in our proposals.  In fact, when asked about their level of comfort across all 8 recommendations, panel members scored an average of 93% for ‘Like it’ and ‘Love it’.   

It makes us feel we’re on the right track for a price submission that reflects good value and what matters most to our customers 

Hear from a few of our community panel members in their own words. 

Other things they had to say: 

  • “I love that SEW have really listened to our recommendations and tried to implement as many as possible (with explanations as to the ‘why not now’ for anything that couldn’t be implemented)”. 

  • “I liked the diverse community consultation about the next 5 years and insight from their senior team..”. 

  • “I liked the willingness to hear from a disparate group of people and place themselves under a microscope to ensure their submission receives a high level of input”.  

  • “Really have the customers’ interests considered”

Read below to find out about the role the panel played in shaping our price submission. 

 

Hear from our Customer and Community Advisory Council 

As part of closing the loop with our important stakeholders, we met recently with our Customer and Community Advisory Council (CCAC). They’ve been with us each step of the way in our price submission customer engagement program, making sure that our engagement was inclusive, and that the proposals we developed were based on what matters most to our customers.    

And it was great to receive their endorsement to show we’re on the right track!   Learn more about the CCAC, their role in helping shape our prices and services and hear what they had to say.  

Our community panel (stage 4)

To further explore and validate the great ideas you'd shared with us, we recruited a 34-member community panel. Our community panel members,  a cross-section of the community you live in, explored all the ideas and insights you’d provided to date.

Based on your ideas, and combined with new insights and knowledge they gained over 6 online workshops, the panel developed a set of 8 recommendations about different options surrounding our future prices and services.

  • Each panel recommendations described an experience that our customers should expect.
  • Panel members also included ideas for how we could achieve success in each recommendation.

We’re currently considering these recommendations, alongside other things you told us you value.  

What you told us: Our community panel's recommendations
Why this is important

With Victoria’s population expected to double by 2065 and with a changing environment, this means greater pressure on our water supplies. So we can secure supplies for the future, we need to be careful with how we manage and supply water.  This means looking for and encouraging uptake of alternative sources of water, like recycled water.

What the panel told us: "Our ideas for how you could do this"

Increase your commitment to providing alternative water sources for current and future generations in a sustainable and cost-effective manner

  • Increase uptake and installation of alternative water systems, where practical
  • Increase alternative water use by customers who already have access to alternative water
  • Develop a strategy to connect (the highest number possible) properties to alternative water.
Why this is important

Service disruptions, whether planned or unplanned, can impact the ability for water to be supplied to a home or business property or sewerage taken away. 

Through regular planned (proactive) maintenance and upgrades, we can keep our network running reliably and reduce disruption to our customers. 

What the panel told us: "Our ideas for how you could do this"
  • Increase how much you spend on proactive planned maintenance and upgrades to systems and processes to reduce unplanned disruptions to you
  • Stricter targets (and fewer disruptions)
  • Prioritise and implement environmentally sustainable materials and processes, where the benefits outweigh the costs and they’re not cost prohibitive. 
Why this is important

With water literacy (understanding where water comes from, how it’s used and whether we’ll have enough) the lowest in the country in Victoria, it means there’s more work to be done to educate our customers how to be “water wise”.  

What the panel told us: "Our ideas for how you could do this"

Educate all demographics (as well as future generations ie schools) about the importance of:

  • water supply
  • water wastage and disposal
  • water as a valuable but finite resource
  • alternative water reducing strain on the network. 

Determine success on efficient water usage of an average household over a period of time (timeframe depends on the campaign).  

What the panel told us: "Our ideas for how you could do this"
  • Provide facts/tips in every bill
  • Encourage customers to receive eBills (or continue with paper bills when the customers has no access to technology)
  • Make bills accessible (e.g. for all languages, abilities and ages)
  • Use complaints data to improve the bill format. 
Why this is important

Digital meters measure water use. The main difference from traditional mechanical meters is that they’re battery powered and can send data to us through a telecommunications network. This means we can access the data sooner, making it easier for customers to use water wisely and keep bills under control.

We’ve made a start on our digital meter program and, over the next 15 months, we’re preparing for 70,000 more customers to be able to access their water consumption data from digital meters. 

What the panel told us: "Our ideas for how you could do this"

  • Replace all meters with digital meters over 5 years
  • Ongoing communication (through app, SMS or other appropriate method) of accurate, insightful data, and timely notification of any faults or leakages – and transparent communications if rollout targets aren’t met.
  • Flexible payment terms.
  • Emphasise benefits for consumers 
  • What the panel told us: "Our ideas for how you could do this"
    • Continue to receive communication via bills (paper or e-bill) 
    • Customers can opt out of email communication via their online account
    • Email notifications of works happening before, during and after disruptions. Use text messaging for planned and unplanned disruptions
    • Discount applied to next bill for substantial inconvenience as a result of no communication (e.g. a week without water) 
    Why this is important

    As a water utility, we invest in innovative technologies and systems to help deliver efficient and affordable water and sewerage services, and to find solutions to address the challenges that climate change, increased urban development and a growing population are placing on our water resources and our communities. 

    We do this through our in-house design and patent our designs so our commercial arm, Iota can offer these innovations to benefit more utilities and communities. We also partner and collaborate with universities and research centres. 

    What the panel told us: "Our ideas for how you could do this"
    • Make sure the services you deliver and the methodology behind them are leading-edge and best practice.
    • The main aims for innovation are to secure our water supply and for sustainable delivery of all services (e.g. water and sewerage)
    • You might also consider recycling options, becoming a leader in the use of smart technology, making use of innovative communication technology and benchmarking and aspiration toward best practice in comparison to like providers.
    • If you can’t fund it yourselves, you might consider seeking third-party funding.  
    Why this is important

    Changed circumstances beyond their control can see affordability become an issue for any of our customers. How can we help  reduce stress and harm?  

    What the panel told us: "Our ideas for how you could do this"

     

  • Continue providing bill relief to customers who need it
  • Create a fund to help support customers in need (optional participation)
  • Continue work to understand why consumers are unable to pay bills and how we can help them.
  • Review tiered pricing for commercial and high-water usage customers only
  • Offer compensation / receive penalty for substantial delivery failures and interruption. 
  •  

    Our community panel process

    Working with an independent engagement consultant, the Sortition Foundation, we randomly selected up to 50 customers from across our service region. These customers formed our community panel, who between October and December 2021 explored what you’d told us to date.

    A community panel operated as a what’s called a deliberative forum. This saw panel members provided with information and time to weigh up the pros and cons and consider the trade-offs associated with a range of issues.

    Through 6 online forums, facilitated by our engagement partner MosaicLab, our community panel members  worked as a team to share ideas with one important question in mind:

    How should we balance the different needs of our customers and community while making sure the cost of our services work for everyone, now and into the future?

    They then made recommendations about different options surrounding our future prices and services.

    You can see the makeup of our panel below. 

    What you’re willing to pay (stage 3)

    From July 2021 we ran a series of surveys to understand how much customers are willing to pay for the experiences they want.

     

    Some of what you shared with us included:
    • What matters to you
    • How we can best:
      • roll out digital meters
      • reduce inconvenience caused by disruptions to water supply. 
    • What’s important to you when it comes to supporting community and the environment
    • How experiencing a leak or disruption may shape your experience and how much you’re willing to pay.
    What we did with this

    We shared this survey data and our broader engagement findings with our community panel for consideration

    During this stage, we conducted 5 different surveys, each with a different focus.  

    Survey 1: What matters to you? (2,256 responses received)

    Focus: helping us shape the commitment we’ll make to you about our prices and services.

    Survey 2: It’s your choice (1,532 responses).

    Focus:

    • What’s most and least important to you when it comes to supporting community and the environment
    • Your best and worst ideas for:
      • rolling out digital meters
      • reducing the inconvenience caused by disruptions to your water supply.

    Survey 3: Have your say on what you’ll pay (2,687 responses)

    Focus: what you’re willing to pay (or not pay) for services you think we should keep, reduce or enhance.

    Survey 4: Non-responder (Dynata survey) (401 responses)

    Focus: an opportunity to hear from those of you who may not engage with us normally.

    • Input from all different types of customers
    • Making sure that we could compare how people who may be more engaged with us might answer differently, including whether survey results were being skewed by people who were passionate about water.

    Survey 5: Contextualised study (918 responses)

    Focus: hearing from those of you who had experienced a leak and/or disruption to your water/sewerage service to measure against people who hadn’t.

    Your experience and what you value (stage 2)

    Between February and June 2021, we engaged directly with our customers, community and stakeholders asking 3 key questions.

    1. What do you value?
    2. What experiences do you want?
    3. How much participation do you want in shaping the next 5 years?

    During this stage, we wanted to give everyone a chance to contribute.

    We ran a series of public workshops, focus groups, representative stakeholder interviews and an online survey. This involved meeting residential and business customers, industry stakeholders and community groups.

    In the workshops, we asked customers to think about their past experiences, what they felt about us at this moment in time and their expectations are for the future.

    What you value and the experience you want 
     
    Affordability 
    • Accurate and affordable bills
    • A breakdown of my charges and more information about where my money is spent
    • Considering the needs of customers in financial hardship, including the offer of financial support if they need it. 
    Communication and response 
    • Quick and efficient responses to water leaks, emergency works and complaints
    • Notifying me when you’re going to disrupt my water supply
    • Online tools that help me monitor and receive real-time notifications about my usage. 
    Securing water quality and supplies for future generations
    • High-quality drinking water and a secure water supply
    • Increasing supply of recycled and desalinated water
    • Incentives, tools and education to help me to save water. 
    Protecting the environment and reducing the impact of climate change
    • Implementing more sustainability initiatives
    • Sending fewer paper bills
    • Prioritising benefits for local communities. 
    Serving our customers
    • Friendly, responsive and professional customer service
    • Maintaining current customer service levels. 
    How we used this

    We used these insights and the data gained to help guide us through the willingness to pay and community panel stages of our price submission. ​

    Engagement activities

    Activities for this stage ran between March and June 2021, and each had a specific focus.

    Public workshops and exploratory focus groups

    Focus:  

    • understand the interests, concerns and priorities of our customers from across the service region, as well as specific cohorts of interest.
    • understand their values and what experiences embody those values.
    Community focus groups

    Focus: understand the level of participation customers would like to have in the decision-making process relating to key price submission topics (i.e. topics that will affect customer bills).

    Online surveys

    Focus: give all our customers the opportunity to participate in this phase of the engagement.

    Representative interviews

    Focus: hear from sophisticated stakeholders about the topics they would like us to engage on, as well as who they should engage with, and how they should engage with customers/the community.

    Community focus groups
    Workshops
     
    Getting started (stage 1)

    Before we started engagement for our new price submission, we first needed to establish a direction to help us align and agree on our engagement approach.

     We wanted to know:

    •  What do customers want to talk about?
    •  What do we want to ask about? 
    • Interviewed and ran workshops with key internal and external stakeholders
    • developed a formal promise to you that we would:  

    o    Make it easy for you to have your say

    o    Build on what you’ve already told us

    o    Provide you with the information you need to make decisions

    o    Let you lead the discussion

    o    Record all inputs and feedback

    o    Share what we hear with you

    o    Ensure our price submission reflects what you want as much as possible

    o    Be clear about where your recommendations have influenced our price submission

    o    Be clear where we can’t incorporate a recommendation and explain why

    o    Update you throughout the process.

    We continue to use this promise to guide us on how and what we engage with you on. 

    A summary of all the engagement we undertook with you.