Report Nov 2016

Benchmarking Quality of Service: A Global Comparison of Water Regulators

Improving customer service is a key business driver for water utilities, but what differentiates high quality service from poor quality and how are utilities measured by their performance?


The need for water regulation stems from the fact that customers cannot rely on their providers to protect them from high charges, poor service, or water quality that does not meet specified standards. Thus, the mission of water regulators is to defend and protect customers while guaranteeing the sustainability of their operators.

Benchmarking is a widely used tool to incentivise utilities to become more efficient, innovative, and transparent. One common performance indicator is “quality of service.” In a study of 136 regulators in 57 countries, “quality of service” was cited in 95% of cases. The term “quality” can refer to response times to attend and repair bursts, leaks, or water quality problems, the acceptable number and duration of interruptions to customers’ supply, the minimum time for informing customers of interruptions, minimum flow rates, remedying sewage spills, etc.

This report compares how five, international water regulators in Australia, Brazil, the Netherlands, UK, and U.S. uniquely benchmark and incentivise their utilities to improve their quality of service, for example:

  • In Australia, the State of Victoria uses the “mystery caller” technique to evaluate call center performance based on the operators’ tone and greeting manner.

  • In Brazil, winners of the National Sanitation Quality Award are hosted in an elaborate gala award ceremony and invited to an international benchmarking tour to view state of-the-art technologies and management practices.

  • In the Netherlands, the water regulatory association, VEWIN directly surveys nearly 12,000 customers to gauge customer satisfaction.

  • In the UK, the economic water regulator, Ofwat, requires water companies to propose long-term, outcomes with linked financial rewards and penalties needed to deliver high quality service to customers.

  • In the U.S., utilities can develop their own benchmarking exercises and are guided by a voluntary assessment program.

Quality of Service Indicators adopted by VEWIN (The Netherlands)

  • Water Quality (average index)
  • Non-compliance with norms
  • Water Quality (out of 10)
  • Customer Satisfaction (out of 10)
  • Calls answered within 20 seconds
  • Water supply interruptions
  • Energy consumption (kWh/m3)
  • Recycled waste (%)
  • Service Costs (€/m3)

Quality of Service Indicators adopted by Voluntary QualServe (U.S.)

  • Customer service complaints
  • Disruptions of water service (planned and unplanned)
  • Residential cost WWS
  • Customer service cost per account
  • Billing accuracy

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