Thames Water is the largest water and wastewater services company in the UK with 13 million customers in London and the South East.

This large presence means that Thames Water’s performance rightly comes under tough scrutiny from customers, the public and other stakeholders.

The utility recognised that its management of incidents, such as burst water mains and sewers, and how they communicated these problems to customers, could be improved.

Burst water mains are not an uncommon occurrence for water companies. But old pipework and the sheer scale of Thames Water’s network means operational failures can happen any time and anywhere within its 31,000kms of water mains and 68,000kms of sewers. The impact on customers and the public can be significant.

Whilst Thames Water recognised their response to operational failures needed improvement, it suspected the reason for poor emergency management simply came down to badly written procedures that staff struggled to understand.

However, when Greenstreet Berman was called upon to help improve the emergency procedures, it uncovered other issues. Employees were not always following documented emergency processes; junior employees were often making critical decisions; and a number of barriers to decision-making processes were having an impact on staff behaviour.

Working alongside Thames Water’s emergency planning manager, Greenstreet Berman helped the utility to understand more about underlying performance issues within the company before developing an improved set of processes, changing the emergency procedures and designing effective training programmes to help employees make effective decisions quickly.

Stronger business, satisfied customers

Thanks to a collaborative approach to human performance, Thames Water became better equipped to respond efficiently to emergencies, such as burst water mains.
Not only did Thames Water reduce the avoidable cost of such incidents with a more effective and quicker response, the way in which it managed emergencies resulted in a significant improvement in stakeholder satisfaction.

Before acquiring the expertise of Greenstreet Berman, Thames Water was finding that its response to incidents could have a negative impact on its brand and reputation. With improved processes and better-trained people, the utility saw an enhanced image, reduced its customer impact, reduced costs and was also able to implement similar success across the whole of its business.