Delivering Behavioural Science To The Water Sector...

As part of our expanding utilities offer we have been increasingly applying the learnings of behavioural science when answering our clients’ research problems.

Answer this: How often have your customers been asked to make decisions based on cold-headed logic? Insights into human decision making have revealed that this simply isn’t how humans operate! As a result, throughout PR19 and beyond we are utilising a whole range of concepts, from Anchoring to Loss Aversion, to understand how customers’ mental biases and heuristics, that may have unduly biased findings in past customer engagement, can be harnessed for the good of the research process.

We have partnered with behavioural scientist Garry Sanderson from Visualyze Solutions, whose previous career was in asset management in the water sector, to plan our innovative engagement models. We are now able to take into account behavioural biases to ensure that customers gain an appropriate level of understanding of issues to be able to make an informed choice without being subject to inappropriate influence from the context within which they gain this understanding.

A small number of snapshot examples of how we have been applying behavioural science to explain customers’ decision making and to also help design our research include:

Loss aversion
we are hardwired by evolution to feel losses with greater intensity than equivalent gains. Important for example when framing investment options and asking about monetary amounts respondents would be willing to invest in schemes or contribute to say, a social tariff!

Present bias 
we value the present and short term more than the longer term in our decisions. Important for example when asking about investment timeframes in relation to asset health!

Status quo bias 
refers to the tendency for people to exhibit a general preference for the status-quo in a given situation rather than opt for new alternative options. This bias has helped us to understand why the preferences of customers on a water meter, for where their meter could be positioned, is more likely not to change even when offered a range of alternative options.




Furthermore, at the 2018 Twenty65 conference Alex McCluckie, one of our Associate Directors and water specialists and Garry Sanderson, made the case for greater awareness and application of behavioural science in the water industry, both in customer engagement and operationally within organisations themselves. So, if you’re interested in discussing how we could apply behavioural science to your company’s customer engagement or even your organisation itself, please contact Alex, Associate Director on or Ali Sims, Research Director on or give us a ring on 01663 767857. 

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