SA water customer delivery general manager Kerry Rowlands announced the scheme while taking part in the 2019 South Australian Council of Social Services (SACOSS) Energy, Water and Telco Conference.
“Having met with our high-needs customers at the same conference in 2018, we realised that there were opportunities for both SA Water and the wider water industry to provide more inclusive services for customers living with daily challenges,” Rowlands said.
“This included one customer who needs an average of 1200 plus litres of water per day to meet their strict hygiene requirements, which understandably takes its toll on their water bill.”
In June 2018, InDaily reported a South Australian woman was calling on the State Government to grant a special water rebate for people whose disabilities require them to use increased water.
Rowlands said SA Water was still examining whether to offer a water discount to those living with disabilities, and more consultation was required.
By catering for customers with the most extreme needs in society, ultimately the wider customer base would benefit.
“Over the last 12 months, we have met with the Department of Human Services, SACOSS, and facilitated one-on-one meetings with our customers living with disabilities and their carers to help gain a full understanding of the challenges and experiences they face, and focus on areas where we could make changes over the coming years to help make their lives a little easier,” she said.
“We also surveyed around 50 members of our customer base living with a disability, with an overwhelming number of responses highlighting a difficulty in reading their meter or high-water usage as their biggest problems when it came to water.
“Through this, we created four distinct customer persona groups – customers with high needs, communication challenges, high information needs, or those needing help with tasks – which helped us map solutions and ways to enhance our services for customers.
“When a customer has a high water use bill come through they give our customer contact centre a call, and we may ask them to go down and have a look at their meter… and tell us what the reading is.
“But if someone is living with a disability then it may be difficult for them to get to their meter, bend down and that sort of physical activity may not be possible or very challenging. So, we’ve already implemented a service with our customer service officers where we’ll go out and do that.”
Data from the Australian Bureau Statistics shows in 2015 around 21 per cent of South Australians identified as living with a disability, with a further 10 per cent providing informal assistance and 3.4 per cent acting as primary care givers.
“If you’ve never walked a mile in someone else’s shoes, you often just don’t know what their life is like and therefore can’t appreciate the issues they face – and we needed to do that,” Rowland said.
SACOSS CEO Ross Womersley said it was important that essential services like SA Water fully understood the range of needs their customers were likely to have.
“This is a terrific example of what can happen when a retail business takes the time to begin to understand their customers and especially those customers who might have slightly different needs to the majority,” Womersley said.
“This initiative from SA Water grew directly from our conference last year where we had a specific focus on the needs of people who live with disability, and we’re delighted that SA Water has gone on to try and deepen their relationships with and understanding of some of their customers who live with disability.”
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