ATi UK’s Director of Technical Services, Chris McTear, discusses why he believes that customer support and innovation have never been so important within the water industry as they are today.
As is the case in any regulated industry, there is an ongoing pressure for the whole of the water sector to deliver value for money, with customer service and innovation proving to be critically important. Water is an essential service, without which homes and businesses cannot function, so we all have a duty of care to be proactive in our strategic management, whilst being quick and effective in our response to customer needs.
Putting customers at the heart of service delivery, increasing levels of communication and responding rapidly to requirements, have all become critical benchmarks for the whole supply chain to meet. As customer expectations surrounding service and responsiveness continue to rise, delivering industry-leading standards of customer focused service has never been more important.
Historically, successfully supplying instrumentation to the water industry was relatively straight forward if you were fortunate enough to have a suite of instruments that were accurate, reliable and were lower cost than competitors. However, frameworks have since created market competition and reduced the number of organisations capable of competing for a narrow market. Conversely, the continuous optimisation of water companies has resulted in a shortfall in new talent entering the industry, instead opting for supposedly more ‘glamorous’ careers. The result is that the role of service and maintenance is either contracted out or has become the job of the supply chain.
Tighter demands from regulators, complex communication protocols, alongside higher standards of better working practice, have converged to drive increased instrument operational dependency. Modern day water companies no longer only have the desire to purchase merely a monitor in a box; instead they want more automated solutions to process control, including reliable data insights that make them data rich and knowledge smart, allowing for proactive choices and intelligent decision making. To complement this, the more forward-thinking instrumentation suppliers are focused on working closely with water utilities, embracing supply chain partnerships and working alongside the various operational silos, to deliver innovative, bespoke, application-driven solutions. However, developing then delivering solutions isn’t where the projects end, because the aftercare aspect of customer service is also just as vital. Many years ago, ATi UK introduced the concept of “fix now, bill later”, which encourages a partnership of cooperation. To do this, the supplier has to take a whole-business approach and be agile enough to deliver gold standard service levels fast and effectively, without contractual bureaucracy.
Digital transformation and the emergence of smart water has since introduced further opportunities, as well as technical challenges, for the water sector as a whole, whilst also increasing customer expectations. Following the success of ATi UK’s ground-breaking range of smart network monitors, our Innovation Hub continues to research and develop new solutions for the water industry, working alongside water companies, strategic partners and academia, to ensure the delivery of bespoke, socially responsible and future-proof engineered solutions as part of our commitment to customer service.
No instrumentation supplier can relax or become complacent, as the demands of the water sector are changing every day. Our goal at ATi is to continue as global leaders in water quality instrumentation and solutions, by continually raising standards, staying responsive to our customer needs, maintaining long-term resilience and driving forward innovation. A consistent, high level of service, tailored to customers’ needs, can and does drive improvement and we strongly believe that customer service excellence is the tangible expression of our organisation’s culture. The old saying, “actions speak louder than words” has never been more true.