Leakage control and lost revenues remain persistent challenges for the water industry. One of the key contributing factors to this is misreported void or vacant properties, where leakage is overstated and revenues are lost because supposed unoccupied properties are in fact, occupied, and using water. Right now, the water industry is trying to work out new ways to manage this problem especially in the Non-household (NHH) Water Retail Market space.

In this article, we explore this ongoing issue, and talk you through how Shepper is working with some of the UK’s retailers and wholesalers to solve this challenge.

The difficulties of checking for Void and Vacant properties

The current approaches available in the market that claim to solve this issue mainly revolve around desktop checks, as well as logistically and operationally burdensome tasks which come with a high fixed cost. More often than not, outputs are unreliable and difficult to validate.

Validating whether a property is actually vacant or void can be difficult

In today’s retail market, the number of vacant properties most water retailers and wholesalers face is daunting. Processes that involve sending out teams to these premises to collect accurate & useful data have so far been incredibly costly. Driving around the country in vans is simply no longer an option due to cost, let alone the environmental footprint.

New tools are innovating the water industry

At Shepper, we have been working with some of the UK’s largest water retailers and wholesalers to explore how we can leverage our large distributed network of Shepherds to help solve this issue at scale, accurately, and cost-effectively. The outcome has been that around 70% of vacant NHH properties are in fact occupied.

From a leakage and lost revenue perspective alone, the business case for completing these checks speaks for itself. 

So how do you leverage the crowd to discover which of your actual vacant NHH properties are vacant?

In the short time that we have been doing this, we have discovered that the key outputs are accurate information that enables someone to bill their customer for their usage. Our reports are specifically tailored to provide you with this information alongside the evidence to back it up, all for a similar price to a desktop search.

The answer lies in sourcing the crowd

Using crowd services has additional benefits for the water industry. Businesses find an increase in customer engagement and a stronger relationship with local communities, while reducing the carbon footprint of longer distance travel as the distributed network is local to the properties in question.

Shepper’s distributed data collection and inspections service enables water companies to check thousands of void properties in a quick, cost-effective and agile way. They are modernising mass-scale data collection on void properties in timescales not seen with the traditional methods currently in use.

Simon Bennett, Head of Wholesale Services, Bristol Water

Increasingly, networked and on-demand operating models are helping to create better and more effective user experiences for industries and their customers. Being geographically dispersed and business critical, the challenge that vacant properties present is ideally suited to new ways of thinking operationally. Crowd-sourcing a solution to leakage and lost revenue challenges is an opportunity that the water industry is only just beginning to explore.

If you would like to discuss this in more detail, or talk through how we have helped some of the water industry’s biggest suppliers, reach out to our water industry specialist, Alisdair Jones at alisdair.jones@shepper.com or fill out the form on the right and we will be in touch.