SSEN and the University of Dundee - an outstanding partnership to help those most vulnerable

A partnership between Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) and the University of Dundee has been awarded the highest grade of ‘Outstanding’ by Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

The ‘Knowledge Transfer Partnership’ has transformed SSEN’s customer service offering. Learnings from the partnership have resulted in an increased understanding of and commitment to delivering a better service to our most vulnerable customers in the north of Scotland and central southern England.

The project identified a knowledge gap in the understanding of vulnerability, leading SSEN to provide specialist training to employees in its customer contact centres and depots, helping the organisation provide the most appropriate service for each of its customers.

This increased focus on the wide scope of vulnerability enabled us to work in partnership with stakeholders to improve the data held on vulnerable consumers. Leading to improvements in:

  • The data quality of those on our Priority Services Register (PSR);
  • The support SSEN provides in advance of power cuts and emergency situations;
  • The provision of rest centres and welfare facilities at key locations; and
  • The frequency of SSEN communications to enable customers to make informed decisions about their own welfare and needs.

Lisa Doogan, Director of Customer Relationship Management at SSEN said: “The Knowledge Transfer Partnership with the University of Dundee has been a crucial step in SSEN becoming a truly customer focused organisation. This project has directly informed our strategic priorities for supporting our customers and we are delighted with the award of ‘Outstanding’ from Innovate UK to recognise the hard work our teams put in to deliver a better service for those most vulnerable in our communities.

“We have spent time educating our employees to treat every customer as an individual, understand their circumstances may change and appreciate they may suddenly find themselves feeling vulnerable. The learning from the partnership has undoubtedly transformed the way we interact with and serve our customers.”

Dr. Edward Hall, Senior Lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Dundee added: “The partnership between University of Dundee and SSEN has been a huge success, as recognised by Innovate UK's award of 'Outstanding'. The research team of Dr. Irena Connon, Prof. Thilo Kroll and myself, worked closely with colleagues at SSEN to understand, and then transform, how the company supports 'vulnerable' people within communities. It is incredibly satisfying to see how the company has changed its whole approach to vulnerability, directly as a result of the Knowledge Transfer Partnership, appreciating anyone can become vulnerable given a particular combination of circumstances.

“It is increasingly important for universities to demonstrate research has significant impacts on society and the economy - this project is an excellent example of this.”

SSEN recently became the first network operator to meet the requirements of the British Standard Inclusive Service Provision BS18477:2010 for two years in a row. The standard outlines the critical procedures to ensure services are available and accessible to all customers equally, regardless of their personal circumstances. The success in complying with the standard for a second year demonstrates its commitment to identifying and responding to consumer vulnerability.