How to warm-up customer service for heat networks

How to listen to customers and deliver the heat networks they want is the topic of a presentation to the 2017 Heat and Decentralised Energy Conference on Thursday 30 November by Kirsty Lambert, community heating specialist and Director at Switch2 Energy.

The Heat and Decentralised Energy Conference 2017  will be hosted by the Association for Decentralised Energy (ADE) and the Energy Institute – bringing together hundreds of industry leaders, policymakers and power and heat experts, to shape the future of the sector.

“Supplying heat on a local level via heat networks offers an opportunity to deliver exceptional, personalised service and to take time to understand exactly what residents want,” said Kirsty Lambert. “In this way, we can go above and beyond service levels in traditional centralised energy supply. I’m honoured to bring this message to such a prestigious conference.”

Drawing on Switch2’s 35-years’ of experience in delivering community heating schemes, she will share best practice on how to get customer service right.

She will advise on engaging with residents at all stages of community heat network design, development and operation; how to set heat tariffs fairly and involve and communicate clearly with residents; how to offer consumer choice and protect vulnerable customers, and how to use digital innovation to improve metering and billing.

Her presentation will cover award-winning examples of customer service excellence in community and district heating, including Switch2’s smart metering partnership with Sheffield City Council, which is enabling residents to reduce bills by an average of 38% by moving from flat rate billing to new generation pay-as-you-go technology.

She will also discuss the importance of customer engagement and education in a joint project with Newport City Homes’ Duffryn district heating scheme, where residents have halved their energy consumption by using Switch2’s smart meters.

Such digital innovation removes the disparity between credit and prepayment systems, which is a major problem for traditional energy suppliers and has required intervention from the energy regulator to introduce price caps.

“With the rapid growth of heat networks, it is vital that the customer is at the heart of the process”, she added. “It is important that we listen actively to residents and respond effectively. Above all, our sector must supply reliable, affordable, low carbon heat and provide a service that is transparent, fair and easy to use.

“It is imperative that developers and heat suppliers adhere to best practice standards from organisations such as CIBSE and The Heat Trust, including setting and delivering on guaranteed performance standards, and consulting with and involving customers at all stages of project delivery. We must give residents control by using smart metering and offer greater choice of billing and payment options, which is particularly important for vulnerable customers who may be in fuel poverty.”

The conference will celebrate ADE’s 50th anniversary at the forefront of championing decentralised energy in the UK. It will take place at the Crystal building in London, which is renowned for its sustainability. The event will explore the leadership role that companies must take to enable growth of the sector, and to deliver competitive, cost effective low carbon energy systems that better respond to customer needs.

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