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Looking after vulnerable customers has never been more important

Posted on: 18/11/2016

With this year’s focus for Wales Action Week, a Business in the Community initiative to raise the profile of an emerging social issue, being ‘preventing homelessness’, we have a perfect opportunity to think hard about the ways we can help our customers stay safe and warm – and importantly, in their homes.

As a regulated business, our primary focus is to safely transport gas and provide the gas emergency service to customers across Wales and the south west of England. It’s a busy job, and it can be easy to overlook the work we can do to help those most in need.

However as a responsible business, we’re driven by our values and we know there are always more things we can do to help the vulnerable in the communities we serve. This week, some of our colleagues have been visiting Speakeasy in Cardiff, speaking to expert advisers with first-hand experience of helping people get back on their feet and avoid losing their home. Our volunteers shared their insights with other colleagues back in the business, helping them to understand the challenges that some of our customers may be facing.

Working together with organisations like Speakeasy really shows how we as a business benefit from our partnership with Business in the Community Cymru. It opens doors to businesses and organisations we wouldn’t usually engage with and creates opportunities to learn from them.

Our focus on the most vulnerable is business as usual. We have already rolled out new training to our customer facing colleagues to help them identify those who need further help, making sure that we can take full advantage of the tens of thousands of home visits we make across our area every year. This training, along with the extra Vulnerable Customer information we have added to our Customer Satisfaction app, has allowed us to sign up more than 900 additional customers to the Priority Services Register (PSR) in just three months, meaning that they qualify for more support and a range of tailored services. This kind of engagement helps to put Wales & West Utilities right at the heart of the communities we serve, and helps our colleagues better understand – and support – our customers.

Signing more people up to the PSR is something we’re working hard on and we’re going to be working with other utilities and suppliers to progress this further over the next year.

As much as we would sometimes like to, our funding and regulatory settlement from Ofgem means that we can’t gift gas connections, or do chargeable work for nothing. We do however have a range of partners we work with on a regular basis to support people with funding for a new gas connection, and a hardship fund that means we can take immediate action when we believe people may be at risk.

We always put our customers first – it’s a core value of our business – and this is never more important than when our vulnerable customers are concerned. This is why Wales & West Utilities is supporting Wales Action Week – to help raise awareness of what businesses can do to help resolve the challenges that face the communities they serve.

Wales & West Utilities is Business in the Community Cymru’s Wales Responsible Large Business of the Year 2016. You can read more about the work we do in the community in this 2016 Awards case study.

Nigel Winnan

Nigel Winnan is Wales & West Utilities Customer and Social Obligations Manager.