SSE launches new mental health awareness training

SSE has teamed up with the Scottish Mental Health Research Network (SMHRN) at The University of Edinburgh to develop a bespoke mental health awareness training programme for its customer service staff.

Mental health conditions are common; around one in four people will experience a mental health problem each year. (according to the Mental Health Foundation).

SSE understands mental illness can affect anyone and its customer services team therefore need to be equipped to help those customers who might have different needs.

Before developing the training programme, The University of Edinburgh’s team of mental health research experts spent one year conducting in-depth research on behalf of SSE. This involved speaking with people that suffer from mental health conditions, including SSE customers, to understand what they need and want from their energy supplier.

During this period the researchers also spent time shadowing SSE’s customer service advisors and at dedicated staff forums to understand advisors’ roles and to discuss working examples and common issues.
Following this, the researchers developed a custom-made training programme for specialised advisors working with vulnerable customers and a booklet for all customer service staff, detailing how to identify and best support vulnerable customers.

The programme SMHRN has developed aims to provide basic information on mental health conditions to aid employee awareness and understanding. It also offers SSE’s specialist teams the training and skills to help communicate more effectively with customers on an individual basis.

Tony Keeling, SSE’s Director of Customer Services and Digital Transformation, said:
“By supporting our staff with the insights and training they need to help those with varying mental health needs we aim to ensure any customers’ interaction with SSE is one that is supportive to their individual requirements.
“Everyone has mental health needs, whether or not they have a mental ill health diagnosis. Therefore as an essential service provider we felt that it was vital we equipped our staff with the training and skills to offer the best service to all of our customers.”

Dr Holly Redpath from the Scottish Mental Health Research Network (SMHRN) at The University of Edinburgh said:
“We have been impressed to see how much SSE cares and what the company will do to ensure the necessary support is being offered to all of their customers, especially those who are most vulnerable.

“SSE employees have reported feeling more comfortable discussing mental health, and more confident in how they can help customer’s facing a range of mental health difficulties.

“Increasing awareness about mental health will not only benefit customers but will help employees recognise the importance of taking care of their own mental health.”

The training programme to support vulnerable customers builds on SSE’s commitment to attaining the British Standard for Inclusive Service Provision, the gold standard when it comes to providing a flexible service capable of recognising and catering for vulnerability in all its forms.

It also complements a ground-breaking partnership between SSE and dementia experts at Stirling University who launched a new book to help those living with the condition.

SSE and SMHRN will continue the work to ensure both the training and content adapts to the changing needs of its customers.