In what’s been a tough time for Australians, EnergyAustralia has answered the call, literally, with 96,000 calls to its EnergyAssist customer hardship program in 2020-21 - a 62 per cent increase on pre-COVID levels. This is one of the energy retailer’s efforts to support vulnerable customers detailed in its 2021 Energy Charter Disclosure.
The disclosure says EnergyAustralia has set up over 537,000 payment plans or extensions for customers in the past year - an 84 per cent increase on 2019-20. It has also introduced a sophisticated system to proactively identify customers at risk of experiencing hardship to offer support as early as possible.
Significant investments have been made by EnergyAustralia in increased training and behavioural coaching for frontline staff, to enable them to have better conversations with customers. This has had an impact with direct customer complaints down by 12 per cent and ombudsman complaints reduced by 26 per cent, compared to 2019-20.
The disclosures are part of EnergyAustralia’s membership of the Energy Charter - a whole-of-sector initiative aimed at better, fairer outcomes for Australian energy consumers. EnergyAustralia is the largest energy retailer to be a member.
The disclosure is a voluntary submission where EnergyAustralia reports on its performance against the five customer experience principles of the Energy Charter. It’s the company’s third disclosure since the initiative began in 2019.
Mark Brownfield, EnergyAustralia’s Chief Customer Officer, says the process helps it determine what it’s doing well, and where it can improve, when it comes to helping customers.
“The disclosure helps us take an honest look at where we’re at. And the document’s freely available on our website so others can see how we’re tracking. It increases transparency, and we hope, trust and confidence with our customers,” said Mark.
“We joined the Energy Charter three years ago as a founding signatory, and soon after many of our customers were hit by the bushfires. And now of course it’s all about the pandemic, which has impacted millions of Australians. People need our help more than ever,” he said.
EnergyAustralia is also trialling wellbeing visits to customers at risk of disconnection. The trial has been successful in helping more than 4000 people keep their power on since it began in February. It has also helped to connect over 800 people to the EnergyAssist program to receive specialised support.
And it’s introduced simple text message warnings to alert customers to higher than normal energy usage, helping to avoid bill shock.
“What’s important to customers is that the energy industry works together to provide simple and integrated solutions, particularly for vulnerable customers, and collaborates to make sure we get the basics right.
“I’m proud of how we’ve supported households and businesses to keep their lights on throughout the pandemic. But we’re not standing still – we’ll keep exploring new ways to meet and exceed the expectations of our customers,” Mark said.
Disclosures made by Energy Charter signatories can be found at theenergycharterpanel.com.au/industry-disclosures/