UK Power Networks’ commitment to supporting vulnerable customers – Calabrio (UK)
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UK Power Networks’ commitment to supporting vulnerable customers

How UK Power Networks Supports Vulnerable Customers

UK Power Networks serves as the distribution network operator (DNO) for London, the South East, and East of England. Boasting an impressive network of around 46,000 kilometres of overhead lines, 138,000 kilometres of underground cables, and over 100,000 substations, they provide electricity to more than eight million customers.

We had the pleasure of speaking with Jamie Airey, GE, Resourcing and MI Manager at UK Power Networks, in a recent webinar with The Forum and Business Systems to chat all things WFM in best supporting vulnerable customers.

Based in Ipswich, Suffolk, the UK Power Networks contact centre’s team comprises of approximately 320 agents and staff. Among them, 120 agents specialise in managing inbound enquiries, while an additional 150 agents handing various support functions across different channels. Jamie, with a decade-long tenure at UK Power networks, leads the resourcing and MI teams, overseeing all aspects of resource allocation and operational functions for UK Power Networks, including support services and specialised attention to our vulnerable customers.

A focus on supporting vulnerable customers

The importance of supporting vulnerable customers cannot be overstated, especially in the case of UK Power Networks. With most of their customer service enquiries being related to power outages, they have implemented a strategy to support those who may be particularly susceptible in such situations.

Power outages can make even the most self-sufficient customers vulnerable, particularly if they rely on electricity for medical equipment. As such, UK Power Networks identifies and highlights any potential vulnerabilities during every interaction. “We speak directly to our customers and ask them if there is anyone on the property who may be vulnerable or if they have any concerns,” explains Jamie.

Their efforts are not limited to medical vulnerability, as they also prioritise financial vulnerability. Due to the rising cost of living, UK Power Networks has seen an increase in fuel poverty and has a dedicated strategy to support these customers in need. “We offer financial support to those customers in need during a power outage. We even provide them with funds to pay for a meal or even for food deliveries,” says Jamie.

Engaging with vulnerable customers can be a challenge, particularly when reaching out via phone. Individuals experiencing financial strain or emotional distress may hesitate to discuss personal matters over the phone and may find it more comfortable to communicate with a human agent through chat functions.

As the demand for omnichannel customer support rises, organisations bear a responsibility to enhance identification methods, address challenges in supporting vulnerable customers, and ensure effective signposting for appropriate assistance. UK Power Networks recognises this responsibility and continues to prioritise the needs of their vulnerable customers in their customer service efforts.

Vulnerability classification

UK Power Networks have implemented a classification for vulnerability. Jamie explains that they have a three-stage category ranking. Category three is for those that have medical reliance. “These could be customers who are unfortunately on end-of-life care or rely on electricity for just for normal living for oxygen concentrators or machines.” As part of their strategy, UK Power Networks will proactively reach out to the customer during times of crisis. This will triage via their vulnerable customers call back team. Jamie explains how the vulnerable customers call back team will take over that customers entire customer journey and they will make sure that throughout the rest of the journey, that customer is sort of looked after and given a “gold class service”.

For stage two and one classification during crisis management UK Power Networks still make sure they proactively reach out and direct them to their website for further support. Jamie explains that if they then identify that someone might need further support, they make sure they check-in with them at all the touch points throughout the journey.

UK Power Networks has implemented a call handling standard that enables their quality analysts to regularly review calls and ensure that their agents are adept at identifying vulnerable customers. “While we understand that discussing vulnerability can be uncomfortable, it is important for our agents to be equipped with the skills to have these conversations,” explains Jamie.

In addition, UK Power Networks actively collects customer feedback through their Ofgem regulator on a weekly basis. They strive to review every customer’s journey, not just those who are vulnerable, in order to gain insights and learn from any issues that may arise. The team then implements process improvements to empower their agents for future interactions.

Training and set-up for agents

When call volumes are high, it is not uncommon for agents to feel stressed. To alleviate this stress, UK Power Networks is committed to providing their agents with comprehensive training and resources that enable them to effectively handle difficult customer situations.

“We maintain a balance between office and remote work, with 60% of our agents working in-office and 40% remotely. While some agents thrive in the social office environment, others excel in a work-from-home setup with fewer distractions. We closely monitor performance and adapt work arrangements accordingly,” explains Jamie.

When it comes to KPIs and measuring success they team has measurements in place to record quality of calls over average handling time. “Delivering excellent customer service is our top priority. We strive to achieve a CSAT score of 93.5%, which we consistently meet. Average handling time is not a major concern for us. We recognise that providing outstanding service to vulnerable customers can range from a quick five-minute interaction to a more involved twenty-five minute conversation.” Jamie explains.

Jamie then explains that they have training in place off the back of the performance of calls.

The UK Power Networks team invests significant time in training their agents to equip them with the necessary skills for their job and ensure they feel empowered to perform well. The team has implemented guidelines to assist agents during calls, while also incorporating training based on real-life scenarios. “Our agents highly appreciate this approach as it allows them to empathize with our customers, understand their perspective, and effectively meet their needs,” states Jamie.

To support agent well-being, UK Power Networks has implemented mental health first aid services. If an agent is struggling or has had a difficult call, there are designated individuals available to provide assistance and engage in conversation. Additionally, the company offers access to an occupational health provider for any personal support requirements.

With a focus on continuous improvement, the team actively seeks feedback from agents to enhance training and development initiatives. UK Power Networks maintains a dedicated training team that conducts regular refresher courses, ensuring updates are made at least every 12 months. External training opportunities are also provided.

The power of technology in supporting vulnerable customers—and agents

In order to provide exceptional customer service, UK Power Networks has partnered with BSL and Calabrio to equip their agents with the necessary tools and technology. Not only does this empower the agents, but it also ensures that they are supported and able to provide their best service. To this end, Jamie explains how they schedule in rest and recovery time for their agents after particularly difficult calls.

In addition, the implementation of Calabrio’s Agent bot, Grant, has enabled the agents to have a greater say in their work-life balance. They can now request time off or changes to their schedule through messaging the bot, allowing them to create a schedule that works for them as individuals and not just for the business.

By utilising Calabrio’s interaction analytics, UK Power Networks can support their agents in providing more personalised responses to customers. It has also enabled them to identify vulnerable customers by detecting keywords or patterns indicative of vulnerability, allowing them to implement targeted support strategies and improve care for vulnerable individuals.

While it is important to focus on customer satisfaction, it is also vital to understand and support the agents who deal with difficult calls on a regular basis. “Calabrio WFM has allowed us to see the performance of each of our lines in real time,” Jamie explains. “We refer to the historic data regularly to see how we forecast. When we have storm events, it can increase quite drastically from 1,500 – 2,000 to 3,500 – 4,000. The special events tag in Calabrio is very useful as we can use that to forecast and exclude or use that data to build our next forecast. For us, it’s so useful,” adds Jamie.

Prioritising the well-being of both agents and vulnerable customers during times of crisis requires a proactive and compassionate approach. By fostering trust, loyalty, and resilience through prioritising the well-being of both groups, UK Power Networks is able to strengthen their contact centre’s ability to weather any storm that may arise.

Discover how Calabrio can empower you to provide exceptional support to your vulnerable customers and agents with efficiency and empathy by scheduling a personalised demo today.

Calabrio is a trusted ally to leading brands. The digital foundation of a customer-centric contact centre, the Calabrio ONE workforce performance suite helps enrich and understand human interactions, empowering your contact centre as a brand guardian. We maximise agent performance, exceed customer expectations, and boost workforce efficiency using connected data, AI-fueled analytics, automated workforce management, and personalised coaching. Only Calabrio ONE unites workforce optimisation (WFO), agent engagement, and business intelligence solutions into a true-cloud, fully integrated suite that adapts to your business. For customers and partners.

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