Business

Power NI recognised for putting vulnerable customers first

Power NI's customer solutions director William Steele and CSR manager Gwyneth Compston. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

POWER NI has become the first energy supplier in the north to be awarded a British Standard for Inclusive Service Provision (BS18477), demonstrating that it provides a flexible and inclusive service which meets the needs of its customers, regardless of their personal circumstances.

The certification ensures the adoption of fair and inclusive practices, helping organisations to understand what customers have a right to expect from them and, by demonstrating best practice, further increasing customer's confidence.

It also provides a framework to help organisations and their employees understand the underlying factors involved in customer vulnerability, and work to develop processes to support their needs.

William Steele, director of customer solutions at Power NI, which provides 55 per cent of the domestic market's electricity needs in the north, said: “The standard gives our customers confidence that we will take time to talk to them, look after them as best we can and ultimately treat them fairly.

“Vulnerability can be transient, but our aim is to be as accessible as possible for all our customers. Our staff have worked extremely hard for over a year to achieve the standard, and it is in fact recognition of a lot of work over quite a few years.”

The certification is a full review of all parts of the business and as part of the inclusive service verification process, Power NI staff trained in the identification of customer vulnerability, inclusive design of products and services and data collection, protection and sharing. It assesses everything including bills, payment methods, staff training and flexibility with those who are struggling to pay.

William added: “For vulnerable people, calling up to speak with a customer services representative can be stressful, so I'm proud to say that our teams have worked hard to expand their knowledge and to adapt their communication style.

“Building on the training our staff have received as part of the standard, we are also JAM Card friendly, we are working to become dementia friendly and further plans are in place for our staff to receive bereavement training in the coming months.”

As a result of challenges arising from the Covid pandemic such as unemployment, increased social isolation, mental health, quarantine and shielding, as well as the end of the furlough scheme, customer issues are becoming more complex, so it's seen as important that services are fair and accessible to all therefore meeting the needs of all customers.

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Business