#BetterTogether – Networks and retailers working together to ensure customers stay connected

During an industry forum in late 2019, Essential Energy shared outcomes of their ‘Knock before you disconnect’ trial that involved field crews delivering letters to customers advising them to contact their retailer regarding outstanding payments. 80% of disconnections were cancelled and customers stayed connected. ‘Knock before you disconnect’ is now being trialled on AGIG’s Multinet Gas Networks (MGN) distribution network with retailers Alinta Energy, EnergyAustralia and Powershop as a #BetterTogether initiative of the Energy Charter.

Essential Energy’s Head of Customer Experience, Belinda Kallmier explains “Following our successful trial last year, when we receive a request to disconnect a customer due to non-payment by a retailer, we consistently attempt to hand-deliver a Notice of Intent to Disconnect directly to customers.  This visit encourages the customer to quickly get in touch with their retailer to discuss their options to avoid the disconnection which is a better outcome for all our customers. Our contract partner who deliver the letters has also said this is a better experience.”

In December 2020, the #BetterTogether ‘Knock before you disconnect’ trial with Energy Charter signatories Australian Gas Infrastructure Group (AGIG) , EnergyAustralia, Powershop and participating partner Alinta Energy commenced. AGIG fieldwork staff began contacting customers within their MGN distribution area in Victoria, via letterbox drops, reminding them to contact their retailer regarding outstanding payments.

“After learning about ‘Knock before you disconnect’ from Essential Energy, it was quickly identified that the benefits aligned with the AGIG vision and values of delivering to customers, and was an initiative that we wanted to adopt to service our customers rather than leaving them without gas supply.” – Chris Fidler, Head of Customer & Market Services at Multinet Gas Networks

In the first three months, the number of disconnection service orders received from trial participants (191 service orders received from January to March 2021) have been historically lower as a result of industry restrictions on raising disconnection orders. Participating partners are also currently working together to assess the number of customers ‘engaging’ with retailers following contact and letterbox drop by Multinet Gas Network.

The early stage of the trial identified some challenges experienced by Multinet Gas Network. Field crews found some customers had not received a bill addressed to them, but to the previous occupant, and therefore were not opened. There were also business sites vacated due to business closure, making engagement through letterbox drop unlikely.

Key learnings such as these are being shared with other Energy Charter signatories who are running similar trials, or considering commencing trials, within their distribution areas including Endeavour Energy, Essential Energy & Australian Gas Networks.

Multinet Gas Network aims to continue the current trial with Alinta Energy, EnergyAustralia and Powershop, with a focus on capturing ongoing performance data to measure success rates and apply learnings and outcomes for future improvements. 

A six-month Energy Charter milestone report will also identify further opportunities to extend the trial and engage additional retailers for process improvement feedback and participation as the current trial size is only relatively small compared to the volume of disconnection orders received across the Multinet Network area.

“The Knock before you Disconnect #BetterTogether initiative is a great example of signatories leveraging the infrastructure of Energy Charter to sharing learnings and collaborate across the supply change to achieve better outcomes for customers.”  – Sabiene Heindl, Executive Director, The Energy Charter