Bluewave: Bringing innovation to life at Southern Water

Hello! We are Southern Water’s innovation and Research & Development lab, called Bluewave. We’d like to talk about what we do, and give you more of an insight into some of the projects we’ve been working on.

Bluewave has been part of Southern Water since 2018. The mission driving our team is a simple but powerful one. We exist to create real and meaningful value for our business, customers and communities by enabling new ideas, technologies and ways of working.

We do this with a team that combines varied experience and diverse backgrounds, with best practice innovation processes and methodology to help to quickly define problems, develop ideas and help teams and individuals within Southern Water to achieve tangible outcomes on a wide range of projects and programmes.

Our team members work across challenges from every part of the business and we’re always enthusiastic about throwing ourselves into new projects and programmes - no matter how tricky!

Who we are
We’re a multidisciplinary team, combining experience within the water industry and Southern Water, but also outside the sector - including innovation, digital, data, strategy, customer experience, design, finance and more. This enables us to tackle challenges from a variety of different angles and viewpoints.

Most importantly, we’re collaborative problem-solvers, always seeking to work with people across our business, industry, local communities and beyond.

We’ve chosen a few of our favourite projects from the past couple of years to share with you below, that bring to life how we work and some of the value we deliver.

A quick look at some of our favourite projects
Driving improved customer experience

Explaining why a customer’s bill has gone up can be frustrating for both our customers and call centre agents. How could we enable customers to resolve their own queries with self-serve opportunities and a guided process?

We explored how we could design a new process using a digital chatbot. This chat feature would appear on the screen and guide the customer to understand whether the cost of their bill is accurate as well as helping customers to understand what may have caused an increase in cost and usage.

Bathing water modelling and quality management

We worked to produce a new approach for bathing water quality management. This approach uses integrated modelling and tools, resulting in better short-term forecasting for bathing water classification.

We combine multiple sources of data from our assets, as well as urban drainage, river catchment and coastal models, to help us better predict water quality.

Simplifying the customer bill

Customers found our previous bill confusing and we knew that this was driving customers to contact us. There had been many bill redesign proposals in the past that didn’t make it through to print. With this project, we needed to build on the past learnings and gain the confidence to get it right.

We wanted to create a design that’s simpler, clearer and easy to read - which as a result reduces billing contact.

Over a period of six weeks, we worked to understand better our customer needs, and used feedback from agents and best practice from our own and other industries. We took what we learnt into our new bill proposal before refining it ready for roll out. The new bill design has been landing on customer doorsteps since March 2021.

Optimising our larger sites

Decisions about financial investment for our sites are usually based on a combination of factors including the work that we do with our regulators, desktop work and our engineers designing a scheme. The size and complexity of these sites means that these approaches may need to be adapted to reflect how our sites work in practice.

Our approach identified that the existing treatment capacity at our target site can still maintain our water quality standards on site without the need to invest in new assets, resulting in a deferred cost of over £8m.

Get in touch!

We’d welcome your feedback. Feel free to contact the team about collaborating on a project or to share an idea for an interesting new product or process. Also, if you think you might be a great fit for the team or just want to talk all things innovation, drop us an email: [email protected]

We’ll be writing regular blog posts throughout the year, sharing how we work, new projects and more information about the team, so keep following our updates to learn more.