As an essential service provider, customers have questions and concerns about whether the COVID-19 pandemic could affect the continuity of power service to residents, businesses, and institutions. By addressing the items on this checklist, with clear consistent communication, you can alleviate the concerns of stakeholders and consumers. The following steps will help reassure customers that your organisation has taken action to ensure that your service remains uninterrupted.
Reassure the public that your organisation is working along with the local government to prioritise those existing customers most in need while identifying customers whose circumstances may have changed as a direct or indirect result of COVID-19. Reassurance that your organisation understands that this situation continues to evolve, and is committed to monitoring local and international guidelines, to adjust and improve your response plan with the goal of protecting staff and maintaining core services to customers.
Illustrate the steps your organisation is taking to protect financially vulnerable customers and assist those customers who may be financially impacted by Coronavirus/COVID-19. To help your customers get through any financial hardships that may occur, you may want to offer extended payment plans. A dedicated contact number or webpage can be shared with information and an avenue for customers to make contact to discuss alternate financial arrangements. Your organisation may also look to differing late fees and disconnections for non-payment through a select period of time.
Further boost confidence by sharing some aspects of your contingency plan. As providers of essential services and critical infrastructure, the energy industry has well-practiced contingency plans in order to ensure the delivery of services. Customers and stakeholders will feel confident in knowing that your organisation has planned and made arrangements for this type of situation and will keep critical operations running. Look to continually updating your operations as circumstances change daily and the steps taken to addresses potential increased absenteeism in the workplace due to illness and safeguarding practices.
Limit unnecessary risks of exposure, including restricting travel, canceling less-critical gatherings, instituting work-from-home arrangements for non-essential employees and requiring sick employees to remain home in line with national guidelines. Those who must report to work should maintain physical distance, working in rotation if necessary to ensure a minimum number of people at workplace at a given point in time, while the essential category of employees like operations and maintenance staff continue to render their services as usual.
Stock up on critical materials where appropriate, review your supply chains and made sure your power plant technicians, system operators, and other critical teams are well prepared for potential problems in supply.
Implement additional infection control measures including increasing the frequency of cleaning workspaces including your customer service centers to protect our customers’ health and safety. Make hand sanitizers and wipes readily available to customers and employees; and prohibit non-essential business travel.
Encourage customers to use the online and mobile options available for payment or checking bills and accounts as opposed to visiting your customer service centres to limit the spread of the virus.
Be a source of information for employees and customers on how to protect their health and safety by sharing ways to avoid the spread of illness. Circulate ‘dos and don’ts’ with regard to Covid-19 utilising different modes including internal communications and social media channels. The key to managing concerns at this time is clear and consistent communication.