Meet our new chief customer officer

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Chief customer officer Kelly MacFarlane told Utility Week magazine that it’s her responsibility to be “the voice of the customer” after joining Thames Water in January from BT Openreach.

She said the opportunity to work “for the biggest of water and waste companies with such a rich history, was a great opportunity that I didn’t want to turn down” and was encouraged by the fact there have been a number of high-profile moves from telecoms to water.

“The parallels are clear when it comes to investing in and maintaining ageing infrastructure in a regulated environment, striving to innovate, and keeping up with ever-growing customer and stakeholder expectations,” she said.

“For me it is really important to work with a product and proposition you believe in. I absolutely believed in that with ­Openreach, and obviously there’s a step further with water – you can’t get a product that’s more critical to people’s lives. That’s something that I personally find inspirational.”

Kelly said her biggest ambition for the company, which serves 15 million customers across London and the Thames Valley, is to make sure that when people think of Thames Water “they absolutely think great customer service”.

She added: “It’s probably an overused example, but in the same way as when you go to John Lewis, you know exactly what you’re going to get – good products and service, value for money and confidence that you know what happens if it’s wrong for whatever reason.

“My biggest ambition would be people have the same sentiment about Thames Water. I want customers to have confidence in the great product and service experience they can reliably expect from us. That’s not to say things won’t go wrong but, when they do, we handle them ­brilliantly.”

What does a chief customer officer do?

Kelly said her role involves working across the entire business, and making sure there is a clear customer service plan everybody representing the company believes in.

“Everyone needs to understand their role in that plan,” she said. “I have to look across the different areas, at the priorities, and challenge how our performance and plans impact customer outcomes.

“Being able to make that link for the business between the service, people and financial outcomes and how they all go hand in hand, and shaping that agenda so that the customer is at the heart of it, is a key part of my role.”

Kelly Macfarlane was speaking to Utility Week.