Monday 19 Dec 2016

Interview with Briar Hall from EnergyAustralia

EnergyAustralia was a major sponsor of the 2016 Victorian Financial Counsellors Conference. We recently caught up with Briar Hall, who leads the Customer Vulnerability & Recovery team at EnergyAustralia, to find out more about how the organisation is getting involved with financial counsellors, and what support they offer customers experiencing hardship.

Can you give us an overview of your role and your team at EnergyAustralia?

I believe I have the best job at EnergyAustralia. I’m Leader of the Customer Vulnerability & Recovery team. That means I’m responsible for the EnergyAssist program and managing the team which responds to customer complaints.

I get to work every day alongside a team of passionate people who really want to make a difference, particularly for our vulnerable customers. I also count myself lucky to work with so many dedicated financial counselling and community groups – they’ve been generous with their time and advice and have taught me so much over the past three years.

What were your highlights from the 2016 Victorian Financial Counsellors Conference?

It’s always great to attend the conference and, as a major sponsor, support the work Victorian financial counsellors do. The event is also an opportunity for EnergyAustralia to get valuable feedback from the people on the frontline so we can understand what we do well and don’t do so well. We apply what we learn to making our support programs better so our customers get better service.

What are your thoughts on EnergyAustralia being ranked the industry leader in the 2016 Rank the Retailer report? What do you attribute the results to?

Proud and grateful – that’s how we feel about our ranking. It tells us all the hard work we’ve done over the past two years is making a difference to the lives of vulnerable people but we can’t stop here, we must continue to build on that momentum. Our goal as with our customers is to build advocates, so a ranking of 6.33 doesn’t cut it with EnergyAustralia. We need to continue to work with financial counsellors, the community sector and our customers to better understand the needs of vulnerable customers and develop programs of work that have the most impact.

We started working with Kildonan UnitingCare in 2014; they’ve given us an independent evaluation of our approach and helped us apply the customer’s voice to our programs, policies and procedures. It’s made us more in-tune with the scale of vulnerability – it’s an issue that impacts our customers, colleagues, friends and family.

Having the right mix of assistance products and services is critical, whether that’s payment matching, appliance swaps or other services. The non-negotiable in our business is one of respect and non-judgemental attitudes. Without it, you can’t have the sometimes difficult conversations that you need to have in order to get the best outcome for the customer and the business. That’s been a key theme to our relationship with Kildonan.

What initiatives is EnergyAustralia currently involved in to assist or benefit customers facing hardship?

EnergyAustralia was the first energy retailer to join the Good Shepherd Microfinance Financial Inclusion Action Plan (FIAP) program. We were one of 12 trailblazing companies to do so and launched our FIAP in November 2016.

At the heart of our FIAP is the idea vulnerability is an issue we can’t solve on our own; it means companies must work together to do what’s right for our customers, our employees and the community. Doing the right thing is one of our core company values, and our FIAP is just one of the ways we’re putting it into action. EnergyAustralia isn’t a company that waits for someone else to fix an issue.

What advice can you offer financial counsellors seeking support from EnergyAustralia’s Customer Vulnerability & Recovery team?

Get in touch. Let’s talk about how we can work together so all the good you do benefits the people who really need help. The insights you provide are invaluable as they allow us to make our programs as sustainable and effective as we can.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Just a big thank you to FCRC and all the financial counsellors who work tirelessly to support our customers. On behalf of everyone at EnergyAustralia, we wish you a safe and restful break with your families over the festive season and we look forward to working together again in 2017.