#BetterTogether – Energy Charter Maturity Model helps to guide our way to better customer outcomes

Energy Charter signatories are at different stages of maturity in relation to the Energy Charter Principles, a Maturity Model has been designed to help signatories self-assess their current maturity and drive better customer outcomes.

“The Maturity Model is an innovative framework based around the Energy Charter principles that enables signatories to understand the status of current capability and set a direction for progress. It’s not about ticking boxes but focuses on the long term and what we need to do to build pathways and capability to deliver better outcomes for customers. The model is designed to help us have a conversation and an honest assessment of self. Signatories can apply it in their own way and we will continue to tweak and add comparable measures and metrics over time.”  – Nicky Burns, General Manager Risk, Compliance & Insurance, APA Group

Nicky Burns, General Manager Risk, Compliance & Insurance at APA Group was instrumental in the co-design and development of the Energy Charter Maturity Model earlier this year. Nicky explained that by understanding that each signatory has different capabilities and priorities she applied her experience of risk maturity models to create articulated criterion aligned to the Energy Charter principles. This enabled a constructive comparison of capability and performance over time by individual businesses. 

“It’s not a compliance tool, but a resource to encourage continuous development over time within a business to better customer outcomes” Nicky said.

The Maturity Model outlines five classifications of maturity from elementary, emerging, evolved, empowered to exceeding. Elementary is where there’s no formal approach to the majority of the Principles in Action under the Energy Charter Principle. Exceeding is achieving optimal customer outcomes through greater capabilities. Underlying design principles such as ‘insightful, collaborative and flexible’ also helped to guide the development of the Maturity Model.

Nicky explained that a Maturity Model designed in this way has never been done before in Australia. In line with the Energy Charter’s values of “be open, learn and improve” the Maturity Model is innovative, allowing signatories across the energy industry to lift their own capability aligned to a standard model.

This year Energy Charter signatories have used the Maturity Model through their disclosure process to genuinely self-assess their current performance and maturity against delivering for customers. It has helped them to articulate where they intend to progress to, over what period and how to achieve it.

Moving forward, the focus will be on leveraging the Maturity Model for critical conversations within signatories and across the supply chain to focus on authenticity and collectively driving better outcomes for customers and communities to “deliver energy for a better Australia”.

Download your copy of the Energy Charter Maturity Model.

The Energy Charter September News Update

Message from the Chair of the CEO Council, #BetterTogether Communal Content Hub, Robyn Robinson from COTA Queensland, #BetterTogether We’ve Got You Phase Four, Draft National Customer Code for Energy Brokers, Consultants and Retailer and Community and Stakeholder Engagement Read More

#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

#BetterTogether – Supporting Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) energy customers

While innovative and inspiring work with CALD consumers is increasing across the energy sector, more can be done, as a recent report from the Ethics Communities Council of NSW shows.

The Australian population is far from homogenous. The 2016 Census revealed that more than a quarter (26%) of Australia’s population were born overseas, up from 25% in 2011. People who speak a language other than English at home make up roughly one fifth of the Australian population, rising to more than one quarter in the two most populous states and exceeding one half of the population of some areas of Sydney and Melbourne.

These communities share structural and institutional challenges in negotiating the energy market.

They are under-represented in a range of areas, including payment assistance programs, the use of Ombudsmen complaints and dispute resolution services, access to information and uptake of new services and technology.  

ABS census statistics point to the over-representation of many CALD communities in the lowest two quintiles of the income spectrum. Often, they do not complain (or their complaints are not heard) which means their challenges and concerns may be overlooked unless specific mechanisms exist within the energy market to ensure that their interests are considered as business-as-usual practice.

In 2016, the ECCNSW published the Cultural Connections Guidelines aimed at guiding Australian energy retailers and distributors to engage with culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities, which included a case study from Energy Charter signatories EnergyAustralia and Jemena.

As part of the ongoing monitoring and evaluation of CALD strategies included in the guide, ECCNSW has followed up with a new 2020 report Continuing Cultural Connections: CALD best practice in a consumer centric energy market. This report reviews the progress of the energy sector in implementing CALD strategies with nine further case studies, of which Energy Charter signatories Jemena and Ausgrid took part.

“As part of Jemena’s recent New South Wales gas distribution pricing plan, we worked with the ECCNSW to arrange three forums for Arabic speakers, as we engaged with communities to better understand their journey to Australia and their unique perspectives on gas.

“We have done a lot of work to better understand our customers across our Jemena Electricity Network in Victoria and Jemena Gas Network in New South Wales, in particular during the COVID-19 pandemic. We wanted to make sure everyone had access to important messages and so we identified key CALD groups in our areas and have worked with our translation service providers to ensure our messaging is available in different languages across a variety of platforms.”Kate Hawke, Marketing and Brand manager, Jemena

Whilst there has been extensive work undertaken by energy businesses, regulators, agencies and Ombudsman schemes, the report highlights that progress has been slower than expected due to:

  • CALD engagement and communication is not business as usual
  • Network revenue determinations, multiple urgent and ongoing projects and competing staff priorities
  • Staff change within organisations being an ongoing issue with project initiation
  • Compartmentalisation and ‘siloing’ within larger organisations
  • Input from the major retailers being lower than initially expected

The survey instrument developed to assess CALD strategies identified two measures that will assist to ensure CALD consumers and their advocates are part of the conversation and maintain innovation and consistency of action across the sector for CALD consumers.

These were:

  • The need to maintain capacity for advocacy for CALD consumers
  • Secure ongoing financial support for wide CALD advocacy across the energy market

To address some of these concerns, Energy Charter COVID-19 customer communications have been translated widely for CALD consumers and we are sharing this information via the #BetterTogether – Energy Charter Communal Content Hub and “We’ve got you” customer information campaign.  To provide a platform for CALD conversations around energy, Energy Charter signatories are also supporting an innovative energy literacy online ‘train the trainer’ program run by Voices for Power.  The program is scheduled to commence shortly in Western Sydney with key learnings to be shared.

 

“We shared the Energy Charter’s translated student energy efficiency fact sheet and the ENA’s ‘$1 electricity gets me’ with our community partners: Care Financial, St Vincent De Paul and ACT Civil & Administrative Tribunal. Care Financial said: ‘This is great and so needed. We shall definitely be using these with our clients and I will forward this to our financial counsellors as well’ and passed them on further to Migrant and Refugee Settlement Services of the ACT. 

These groups have direct contact with customers and members of the Canberra community in need of extra support to keep warm and on top of their energy bills this winter, so we know the resources will add value right where it’s needed. We’re also grateful to Energy Charter and Jemena for providing the translations, which enable us to empower Canberra’s diverse community.” – Charlie Sage, ActewAGL Senior Hardship Officer

In the analysis, ECCNSW said the single most important factor in helping to progress these projects has been the one-to-one conversations between ECCNSW and the businesses and agencies around CALD consultation and engagement.

“With some businesses and agencies ECCNSW has been able to provide various levels of support, including: employment for trained bilingual facilitator support to a project; timely reminders of their CALD engagement and consultation; and with others, advice and guidance on better practice for CALD engagement and consultation.” – Iain Maitland, Ethnic Communities’ Council of NSW

#BetterTogether – Understanding the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic to support customers. An insights report by Jemena.

As part of their commitment to energy consumers made through the Energy Charter, Jemena in partnership with Deloitte, have conducted research into how electricity consumption, customer sentiment and behaviours might have changed during the COVID 19 pandemic.

“It’s incredibly important to understand how COVID-19 is impacting people and identify ‘at risk’ communities, so that we communicate clearly, through the appropriate communication channels and put operations in place that quickly support them – particularly those experiencing unprecedented challenges. This is a social issue and we must work collaboratively across the energy supply chain to prove the value that we bring”  – Andrew Davis, General Manager, Strategy and Commercial at Jemena

The research was conducted between 20-27 May 2020 via a series of survey questions to 921 respondents, broadly representing the demographics of Jemena’s Electricity Network customer base. The focus was to measure the nature and extent of change in customer circumstances, their primary concerns, and the challenges they foresee going forward for example:

  • 44% of respondents experienced a reduction in their household income.
  • 23% believe that COVID-19 will impact their household income for 10+ months
  • 27% respondents are currently receiving Job Keeper or Job Seeker payments
  • 45% of respondents receiving income supplements are concerned with their ability to pay their electricity bill once the Job Keeper and Job Seeker is cut off

In addition to this, the research also invited feedback from customers on new ideas and support models being proposed. The main themes arising from the customer survey include:

Decreasing incomes. Increasing unemployment – COVID 19 has led to many households being financially impacted. 44% of respondents reported a decrease in income. At the same time, 39% of respondents had their hours reduced or became unemployed. Given the forecasted rise in unemployment, the number of respondents experiencing income decreases and job losses is expected to increase.

Optimists vs. Pessimists – Most respondents fall into two buckets, those that believe COVID-19 will no longer impact them within the next 16 months (46%), and 23% that believe it’ll affect them for 10+months. This research was conducted prior to the second lockdown in Victoria.

Assistance will still be needed – Income supplements have cushioned some of the financial blow from COVID 19, with 27% of respondents receiving JobKeeper or JobSeeker payments. Nearly half of all respondents have however indicated that they are concerned with their ability to pay their bills once payments end.

Conditions won’t be favourable for a while – Hardship is anticipated to continue as economic conditions such as GDP and unemployment remain unfavourable. The recent second wave of COVID- 19 will most likely have a sustained impact on customer circumstances.

A clearer view of customer perceptions, concerns and expectations will better enable Jemena’s customer service and support models to continually adapt to the pandemic and the evolving challenges it presents. Importantly, Jemena is working collaboratively across the 19 Energy Charter signatories to share these customer insights and further inspire support for all Australians impacted by COVID-19.

Download the full report: Jemena COVID- 19 Customer Hardship Customer Research Insights Report, June 2020

The Energy Charter July News Update

Message from the Chair of the CEO Council,  Jemena and Deliotte COVID-19 Research, Mark Henley from United Communities, #BetterTogether Customer Code for Energy Brokers and Retailers and APA’s Amadeus Digital Engagement Read More

#BetterTogether – Energy Charter principles in action with Powershop’s ‘Power It Forward’ program

In January, Powershop launched the ‘Power It Forward’ program to help customers and others in bushfire-impacted communities by donating a bit extra when paying their bill.  In four weeks, 12,500 customers and a kick-starter from Powershop raised $185,000. 

This was distributed to customers across 265 bushfire-impacted postcodes, providing bill relief to impacted customers or giving them the opportunity to pay it forward to support local cafés, retail and other small businesses in the area. An example of the Energy Charter principles in action.

Fast forward only two months from the bushfires to COVID-19, and the ‘Power It Forward’ program was launched again this time to support Powershop’s small business customers doing it tough. By putting customers at the centre of their business, Powershop have leveraged their community network to support vulnerable customers and improve their customer experience.

“We wanted to do something together with our customers, to help those who have been most affected by COVID-19. The Power It Forward program has been designed to support the community connection between our customers and it’s just one way we can provide some relief for small businesses that are on the road to recovery.” Jason Stein, CEO Powershop.

With a kick-start contribution of $50,000, and a pledge to match customer contributions dollar for dollar up to $100,000, the Powershop goal is to raise $250,000 that will be used to support Powershop’s small business customers facing vulnerable circumstances.  This is how an agile corporate response puts the Energy Charter principles directly into effect for customers.

The money contributed to the ‘Power It Forward’ fund will be distributed to eligible small business customers to provide financial relief on their energy bills. To support the program, Powershop is also actively checking in on their small business customers and offering advice about accessing other support services if they need it.

“This program is an opportunity for our customers to do what was always in their nature to do. Time and time again, we’ve seen our customers go above and beyond to support their community” but also the environment. It’s a privilege to manage a program that facilitates and deepens our customers’ connection with the Powershop community and is a reflection of our commitments as a member of the Energy Charter.” Monica Cheah, Marketing Engagement Lead, Powershop.

Beyond ‘Power It Forward’, Powershop has a range of support options available to both residential and business customers impacted by COVID-19. For more information click here.

The Energy Charter 2020-2022 Independent Accountability Panel

The Energy Charter CEO Council, made up of 19 CEOs across the Australian energy sector, is pleased to announce the 2020-2022 Independent Accountability Panel. Ben Wilson, Chair of the CEO Council and CEO of AGIG said “I am delighted to welcome Clare Petre, as the Chair of the Independent Accountability Panel, to join ongoing panel members Dr Cassandra Goldie and Mr Andrew Richards for the next three years. Read More