Equipped with Populus research, United Utilities have made changes that made a real difference to water consumers’ lives.

United Utilities serves 7 million customers across the North West. The region has one of the largest populations of economically deprived household in the country.

The challenge

United Utilities needed to understand how to better engage the disengaged using empathetic, human-centred qualitative and quantitative research.

United Utilities commissioned Populus to carry out research to find out more about the people who they serve. They needed to understand:

What we did

It was a complex piece of research. Populus took a piloted, staged and multi-audience approach. Our qualitative experts conducted empathetic, understanding research with real consumers across the area. By walking with them in their shoes, listening to their stories and treating respondents with dignity and respect, we got closer to the real lives behind the statistics.

It rapidly became clear that respondents didn’t have the knowledge or awareness of the support available to them. Shame and embarrassment stopped them from seeking help; the schemes were confusing. This often resulted in people not pursuing a solution and spiraling into debt. Our quantitative specialists conducted research of over 250 respondents in the area.

The results

The research gave United Utilities the tools to improve services and make positive change to real consumers’ lives.

The research showed that a multi-channel engagement approach was badly needed. As a result, United Utilities were able to make changes which really made a difference to customers’ lives. These included:

Since implementing the findings of the research, United Utilities has increased the number of scheme sign-ups by 40,000, and has reduced bad debt in the area significantly.