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Why it was scary to talk about our social contract

The concept of talking to customers about our social contract was a first quite daunting, it’s an evolving concept and I’ll admit – we didn’t have all of the answers. But, I guess, that’s kind of the point…

Just quickly, for context, what is our social contract? Put simply it is a framework for us, Bristol Water, to deliver our purpose. A purpose that goes well beyond just delivering water and sees us make a positive impact on society. In a nutshell it is us doing good stuff for our communities. You can find out more here.

Anyway, back to my point – Why it was scary to talk about it to customers…

We spent hours preparing and discussing the intricacies of every little element of our social contact even down to the words – should we be saying transparent or open? Should we refer to them as programmes or themes? Should we add that it is outside of the regulatory framework? We felt like we were winding ourselves up in circles!

But in actual fact, that all seems a bit dramatic now.

When we met our customers, they actually got it and could see the value in what we are trying to achieve. They recognised the contract as simply doing good things in the community for the benefit of society and thought that it’s “what makes us go from good to excellent”.

Our Customer Forum in February 2019

Although this was amazing to hear, what actually made me smile was that our customers were referring to Bristol Water as ‘us’, ‘we’, ‘our’.
The reason I was smiling? Because for two years we have been meeting with these customers, getting to know them and together we developed our plans for the future. One of the advantages of meeting with the same customers regularly is that they started to recognise their own suggestions from previous conversations being taken forward in our plans.

I think their close involvement has led to them feeling personally involved in our team and they also have a sense of ownership over what we are planning to deliver for our communities. This sentiment went even further when some of the customers also wanted to be personally involved in volunteering their time to help us spread the word and do some of the things that the social contract sets out to achieve. Some showed an eagerness to help out at the water bar, visiting schools and helping out with our environmental initiatives.

We asked customers to use paper, pens and posit its to write down anything and everything we should be doing as part of our social contract.

This is important to us because the social contract is all about doing good things in the community and the best way to do this is by sharing these common goals and passions and working as a community to achieve them.

Find out more about the Customer Forum and what our customers had to say about our Social Contract here

Dani Emerson is the Customer Research and Engagement Manager at Bristol Water. She joined the company in 2016 having previously worked as an Analyst at Portsmouth Water. Dani graduated from the University of the West of England with a first class degree in Geography and Environmental Management. She is originally from Cornwall and in her spare time, when she doesn’t have her head in spreadsheets, she enjoys being a beach bum sipping on cocktails and trying to squeeze in as many holidays into the year as possible.