#BetterTogether – Customer and stakeholder engagement an important step for Energy Charter disclosures

Customer Advocacy Groups

As Energy Charter signatories prepare their 2019-20 disclosures for the Independent Accountability Panel process, engagement with customer and stakeholder representatives has reiterated the value of different perspectives.

“Our Customer Advocacy Group is not just to inform, it’s about the dialogue and the shared learnings, and we have good connections to their members through their communication channels. The Customer Advocacy Group raise concerns/feedback directly with us or we meet directly with their members to resolve any issues.” Karyn Looby, Stakeholder Engagement Specialist at Essential Energy.

“The AGL Customer Council has been running continuously since 1998 as a way to bring a diversity of customer views into the business. The Council has evolved over time as the needs of the business have changed and we refreshed membership earlier this year to reflect the need to support a broader group of customers, including older Australians and those from culturally and linguistically diverse communities. We engage with members throughout the year, especially when we are grappling with issues and members input can help inform our decision-making.”  Amanda Kennedy, Head of Customer Policy at AGL

Customer and stakeholder councils are a proactive forum for consultation, engagement and insight across a customer base on key consumer matters relating to energy businesses, including the Energy Charter. While representatives vary between signatories, they often consist of people representing their customer or communities.

This year, the majority of Energy Charter signatories have proactively engaged with their customer groups and broader stakeholders, through their disclosure process to leverage the different viewpoints and genuinely assess current performance and maturity against Energy Charter principles.

For Essential Energy, the process has broadened their perspective on their current level of maturity in relation to the Energy Charter Maturity Model and reinforced that they’re only at the beginning of their customer journey. This time last year, engagement with their Customer Advocacy Group (CAG) drove the understanding that the Energy Charter is a living process and the annual Disclosure is a static slice. The CAG reiterated that the Energy Charter will be a success when it’s not used as a mechanism to check off KPIs but creates durability and is responsive to community needs and expectations.

Australian Gas Infrastructure Group (AGIG) also took the important step of engaging with external stakeholders to ensure their self-assessment was both fair and reasonable, and that they were staying focused on customer outcomes. CEO of AGIG, Ben Wilson walked a number of stakeholders through their self-assessment, including representatives from consumer and business groups such as Consumers SA, Council of the Ageing, Multicultural Communities Council of SA as well as energy retailers including Origin, AGL and Energy Australia. AGIG already has an extensive engagement programme established as part of their regulatory processes, so the groups involved were familiar with the energy sector and AGIG’s role within it. Feedback is now being incorporated into their final response to ensure they’re being truly objective and making progress towards real change for customers.

“At Aurora, stakeholder engagement is all about asking community and customer representatives for feedback and input before we make decisions on things that may impact them. It’s about including them in our decision-making processes to create alignment between our performance and the expectations of the community we are a part of.

For this reason, our engagement on our Disclosure is not only about whether our self-assessment aligns with that of our stakeholders. We’re also asking if the areas we’ve highlighted for improvement are the areas they would like see us focus on in the future, and how they would like to see us go about meeting our commitments to the Energy Charter.

Fundamentally, through this process, we’re asking our community and customer representatives to help shape the way forward for our business.” Amy Abraham, Senior Corporate Affairs & Stakeholder Relations Advisor at Aurora Energy

Energy Charter disclosures will be submitted to the Independent Accountability Panel on 30 September. As Energy Charter signatories, we thank those involved across the signatories in the customer councils for their insights and engagement in the preparation of the disclosures. We look to ongoing engagement through the Independent Accountability Panel process.

#BetterTogether – Benjy Lee from Jemena reflects on how far we’ve come as a collective in a year

Amidst all the craziness trying to chart the uncharted challenges of COVID-19 as an Energy Charter collective, I thought it would be useful to take some time to reflect on how far we’ve come in the relatively short life of the Energy Charter. It’s a mere blink of an eye in the history of the energy industry, but incredibly important for the insights and customer focus it’s creating, and especially poignant given that so many of our customers are now facing uncertain and difficult circumstances.

The evolution of the Energy Charter’s #BetterTogether initiatives has been inspired by two memorable moments at the launch of the Energy Charter in January last year (feels like longer, but it’s not).

Firstly, the energising vision and insight from CEOs across the energy supply chain, brought about by sitting together on stage and openly sharing their thoughts on the need for improved collaboration and customer-centricity in the energy sector.

Secondly, equally memorable but more on the daunting side, was the challenge issued by the Powershop CEO (at the time) Ed McManus for the industry to get on with creating some quick wins for customers.

It was this initial impetus and the collaborative efforts by Energy Charter signatories that resulted in getting our #BetterTogether innovation initiatives up and running, to the point that it has now grown into 11+ fantastic initiatives that are driving better customer outcomes, and which have also found a voice as our central mantra, now regularly used to guide and inspire our Energy Charter community conversations – #BetterTogether!

A defining moment was the #BetterTogether workshop we ran in August 2019 using an innovation framework of “ideate, incubate and accelerate”. I’ve got fond memories of a room full of tables with industry and consumer representatives huddled in discussions around how to shape the initiatives that were passionately pitched by collaborator leads earlier in the day.  There was a strong sense that a different kind of collaborative conversation was taking place.  With the insights and encouragement drawn from the workshop, it was then time for all the #BetterTogether collaborators to roll up their sleeves and get to work enlisting people within their various businesses across the supply chain to progress these initiatives.

#BetterTogether has provided a much-needed impetus and the means to learn how to more effectively collaborate across the energy sector – perhaps finally putting back some of the much needed ‘glue’ after valuable industry connections were lost as part of the economic reforms in the 1990s that split the supply chain up to drive efficiencies.

It also takes some time to introduce and connect the right people from different parts of the supply chain – from industry, customer and community representatives, regulatory bodies and other stakeholders – in a way that promotes exchange of ideas and continues to build trust in the approaches taken and by sharing the progress along the way. Often it is not easy and there’s plenty of pressure within the challenges of doing things differently in a way that collectively serves customers in a better way – however this is what true cultural change looks and feels like, sometimes painful but ultimately rewarding!

Unforeseen events and fresh priorities have also emerged to challenge the energy sector, such as the catastrophic bushfires earlier this year, and now the profound uncertainty of COVID-19.  It has been pleasing to see the Energy Charter’s #BetterTogether initiatives use a focus on innovation to engage with these challenges and bring forward responses.

With 11+ fantastic #BetterTogether initiatives underway, it’s also been great to see such a diverse range of efforts and outcomes being delivered.  These include the coordinated “We’ve Got You” campaign, in 10 different languages, to help more energy customers facing difficult circumstances access the support they need, and the 24/7 connection initiative, which is allowing some electricity customers to connect their power faster, for the first time outside normal business hours using smart meter functionality in Victoria.

What started as a call to action to get on and be #BetterTogether in 2019 has quickly developed into a collaborative platform for driving customer-focused outcomes – around 150 people from the Energy Charter signatory businesses are directly participating in #BetterTogether initiatives, with many more working behind the scenes to deliver the work.

As with any innovation pipeline not every idea will succeed, however a healthy ecosystem for testing and turning ideas into customer focused action and outcomes has definitely been created, which can only serve our customers and the energy sector well for the future.

Congratulations to everyone who has thrown their efforts and energy into building the #BetterTogether innovation platform into what it is today – from the CEO to those in the operational levels of our businesses, along with our supportive stakeholders.  This is something we can all be proud of.  I’ve really enjoyed the recent Energy Charter social posts that are showcasing some of the #BetterTogether human champions who are working hard every day to deliver collaborative customer outcomes – it’s great to see these leaders in our sector getting thoroughly deserved recognition for their industry leading work.

Visit #BetterTogether to learn more. 

The Energy Charter August News Update

Message from the Chair of the CEO Council,  Jemena and Deliotte COVID-19 Research Findings, Wendy Miller from QCOSS, We’ve got you, #Know Your Customers and Communities Shared Learning Platform and Powerlink’s Customer Panel Read More