Perspectives beyond the meter: A Q-study for modern segmentation of drinking water customers

Stijn Brouwer*, Miranda Pieron, Rosa Sjerps, Thijs Etty

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Given the growing interest among drinking water companies in the customer ‘beyond the meter’, generic accounts of the ‘average user’ no longer suffice. Yet, segmentation on the basis of specific characteristics or behaviour seems to offer a limited explanatory value. Hence, there is an increasing need for more detailed empirical knowledge of the potential for, and significance of, customer segmentation on the basis of subjective views and preferences. To this end, this paper not only explores different customer perspectives on drinking water, but also quantifies their prevalence and distribution, at a deep analytical level, in the Netherlands. The paper draws on empirical data collected from both a Q-study, encompassing a focus group and more than 30 interviews, and two large-scale surveys with a 3-year interval. We conclude that four customer perspectives on drinking water can be distinguished: (1) ‘aware & committed’; (2) ‘down to earth & confident’; (3) ‘egalitarian & solidary’; and (4) ‘quality & health concerned’. The modern customer segmentation approach in this paper offers deeper insights into the satisfaction, interests, concerns, and sociodemographic characteristics of customers related to these perspectives, which can aid companies in their quest to become more customer-oriented and responsive to different customer needs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1224-1238
Number of pages15
JournalWater Policy
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019


  • Customer perspectives
  • Drinking water supply
  • Q-methodology
  • Segmentation
  • The Netherlands


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