Working with customers
Project Round
Project Number
10TR13 - 001
Research Organisation
GA Research

Supporting Vulnerable Customers

The Challenge

Living costs in Australia have increased by 40 per cent in the past decade as Australians pay more for essential services such as healthcare, education, food, energy and housing. With the cost of living on the rise, more Victorians are experiencing, or are vulnerable to, financial hardship.

In 2013, the Essential Services Commission approved water price increases for all of the Melbourne metropolitan utilities from 2.3 per cent (Western Water) to 19-25 per cent (City West Water, South East Water and Yarra Valley Water). The Melbourne water industry is aware that more and more customers have been experiencing, or are vulnerable to, financial hardship – and the number of customers seeking financial assistance will likely rise as a result of the price increases.

The Project

The Melbourne water industry is collaborating with three leading social service organisations via the Vulnerable Customer Taskforce. This comprises senior managers from City West Water, South East Water, Yarra Valley Water and Western Water, as well as CEOs from Good Shepherd Youth and Family Service, Kildonan Uniting Care and AMES. Via this joint effort, the Taskforce aims to actively respond to this challenge by identifying, prioritising, guiding and progressing industry-wide programs that support vulnerable customers and frontline staff – and add value to existing programs.

This initial project was initiated by the Taskforce to provide the Melbourne metropolitan water industry with intelligence to help shape effective and innovative strategies to address current and future challenges in relation to financial hardship and vulnerability. Independent market and social researchers GA Research and strategic advisory firm Kreab Gavin Anderson were selected through a competitive tender process to deliver this objective. The project was conducted using a robust process over a period of three months. Data was collected and statistically verified through a variety of methods as outlined in the final project report.


Industry Consistency – All water utilities should work together to develop a common industry standard for identifying and supporting customers in vulnerable and hardship situations.

Solutions & Products – Ensure a wide range of solutions are available to meet the interests and needs of different customer segments.

Customer Data – Develop systems to analyse known customer data and identify likely vulnerability and hardship.

Communications – Raise awareness of what is available to help customers manage their water bill, who qualifies and how to access it.

Supporting documents