Context vs. Content: when designing products and services for our customers, context expertise (or lived experience) is just as important as including content expertise..
The Energy Charter’s Better Practice Customer Engagement Toolkit acknowledges the robust processes businesses need to understand their customers and communities. The Toolkit provides practical strategies for energy businesses on ways to incorporate feedback into their decision making.
Essentially, all energy businesses are here to serve customers and communities (whether they are residential, small & medium business, or large commercial and industrial). To deliver energy products and services in a way that meets customer and community needs and expectations, we first need to understand: what are those needs and expectations?
That’s why engaging with customers and communities is critical.
In our May Know Your Customer + Communities – Community of Practice, we looked at a case study that involved the energy sector co-designing a lived experience advocacy program with Tasmanian Council of Social Service (TasCOSS) for customers who experience low-income.
The panel included:
- Dr Lucy Mercer-Mapstone; Community Voices Lived Experience Program Coordinator at the TasCOSS, who was key in the development of the Community Voices Program – a lived experience advocacy program which trains and mentors community members to influence a services’ systems, policies, and decisions to become more equitable for people living on low incomes.
- Jarrah Keenan, who is a Community Voices Program Partner. He shared his lived experience in creating change, making sure services and decisions which affect Tasmanians on low incomes are truly fit-for-purpose.
- Amy Abraham who in her previous role at Aurora spoke about how they embedded the lived experience into their work and the steps it took to make it happen.
Why is lived-experience important for energy businesses?
When designing products and services for our customers, context expertise (or lived experience) is just as important as including content expertise – and it should be paid for accordingly. People with lived experience can help shape the policy decisions and processes that impact them, ensuring better customer uptake of what is delivered.
To support this, businesses and organisations should ensure they have the right capability to do so and are aware (and adhere to the principles) of safe and respectful engagement with people with lived experience and their advocates. TasCOSS has developed resources and provides mentoring to deliver engagement that enables a safe space.
Jarrah Keenan provided some insight on what it means to be a Community Voice Partner. His experience with government included a project for communities who experience low literacy. His key takeaways include:
- Support people from within the community to carry out engagement and to ask the community for their input. This will enable people feel safe in their own environment and in turn, provide honest insights.
- Be aware that those with lived experience may not feel comfortable providing their input within a group environment. Consider one on one engagement to enable a depth of insight from individuals.
- Engage after the engagement! This will help show how the original engagement has been included and will support further feedback – it’s worth the additional cost! Jarrah noted this step restored the community’s trust in the government.
“That they (the government) made the effort to engage with those that were ‘hard to reach’ and that they were genuine in seeking and incorporating their input, this made all the difference.”
- The process is important. Community Voice Partners receive excellent training, but the biggest motivator Jarrah explained, “is that our opinion is valued, and we feel heard. It is an excellent innovation in how people can contribute and be heard by government, business and other organisations.”
Amy Abraham talked about her experience working with Aurora. The program was a new approach to engagement specifically to engage with those members of the community we had not worked with before in the co-design of our programs. Key insights include:
- The process helped us recognise our unconscious bias and made it clear that we needed people with lived experience to be part of the co-design process.
- For example, the introduction of a ‘quick exit button’ for people who experience family safety issues, was included in the design of services and support for customers once we listened to people with lived experience of family violence.
- Reflect on the capability and maturity of your organisation in making the engagement safe for people with lived experience. Consider if it is better to partner with expertise to set this up to ensure it is done well.
- Bring others along on the journey: validating problems and solutions along the way. As Amy explained, “it’s about doing the right thing, but it is also about designing a more efficient and sustainable process and experience for people that can solve the problem.”
Watch the ‘Lived Experience Voices’ session
If you would like to watch the Know Your Customers + Communities – Lived Experience Voices session that looked at a case study that involved the energy sector co-designing a lived experience advocacy program with Tasmanian Council of Social Service (TasCOSS) for customers who experience low-income, you can watch the recorded session here.
About this event
This event was part of the ‘Know Your Customers + Communities’ Community of Practice dedicated to building capability around robust and fit-for-purpose customer, community, and stakeholder engagement, and building organisational cultures that value the customer voice in decision making.
Know Your Customers + Communities is a collaboration with between the Energy Charter and Water Services Association of Australia under our Collaboration Memo of Understanding (MoU).
To become a regular member of this Community of Practice, please contact Bec Jolly, Director Collaboration firstname.lastname@example.org.