A deliberative approach for strategic direction

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Why the client needed the research

Welsh Water needed to ensure that the Strategic Direction Statement (SDS) it was developing to summarise its direction for the next 25 years reflected the long-term priorities of its customers. Beaufort was commissioned to help Welsh Water with this task.

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Our approach

We developed a deliberative research design to meet this objective most effectively, consisting of three key stages:

- Stage I - We convened groups with a cross-section of water bill payers to explore general views on water and what issues mattered to them as customers.

- Stage II - At the end of the first discussion, participants were shown a DVD of a brief film on Welsh Water to give them sufficient background information to be able to participate fully in Stage III.

They were also given an overview of the SDS document to take home to read, and consider the importance of each aim and element listed, before filling in a short questionnaire.

- Stage III - The deliberative process concluded with reconvened sessions for further discussion of the completed forms, and we looked for consensus on which dimensions were most important for each aim.

We spoke with customers of Welsh Water in four different locations in Wales and the Welsh Borders, and from different demographic backgrounds. 16 discussions were convened in total.

The outcome

The study demonstrated that customers deemed important all of the customer-facing aims and dimensions included in Welsh Water’s draft SDS document, which meant ranking them in order of priority was difficult for customers. However, the methodology employed enabled us to reach a broad overall order of priority which helped Welsh Water to focus on what matters most to customers.

Our research also guided Welsh Water with the language to be used in the final SDS document and, more generally, provided valuable observations on customer perceptions of Welsh Water’s performance.

What the client said

“Beaufort’s work has given us a real understanding of the customer perspective by highlighting what issues matter to the people we serve. The research gave us clear and actionable findings to help us produce a document which is relevant and understandable” (Peter Jones, Head of Economic Regulation, Welsh Water)