The last two years put a spotlight on the collective responsibility that governments, companies and individuals share in building a better and brighter future for all. Corporations will be evaluated during this historic moment on their contributions to helping communities and their customers adapt to life during the COVID-19 pandemic. As life slowly begins to return to normal, it’s important to reflect on what went right and how we can do it better.
When the pandemic began, there were several steps that Hydro One immediately took operationally to support essential services in communities which included proactively patrolling the lines that power hospitals and other critical infrastructure, and performing inspections at the stations that serve large customers. But as the pandemic continued, it became clear that individuals, families and communities also needed as much support as possible.
“Our people, towers, poles and wires bring the light, heat, refrigeration and technology that is essential to life,” said Spencer Gill, Vice President, Customer Service, Hydro One. “We have a deep responsibility to do everything we can to support our customers with financial assistance, flexibility and choice during this difficult time.”
For businesses across the province, focusing on the needs of customers and communities was integral. For Hydro One, a new corporate strategy helped the company adapt, problem solve and quickly provide support at a time when it was needed most.
As the pandemic wore on and Hydro One adapted to a new way of working, it remained critical to keep focused on its most important priority: the people of Ontario.
Hydro One was one of the first utilities in Ontario to launch a Pandemic Relief Program, supporting customers experiencing hardship with financial assistance and increased payment flexibility options. Through this initiative, Hydro One was able to help customers avoid the stress of falling behind by connecting them to the right programs to meet their unique needs.
Shortly thereafter, the company launched Connected for Life, a promise to help customers stay connected to safe and reliable power; suspended late fees for all customers; and returned security deposits to businesses across the province.
“Connected for Life is a reflection of who we are and our transformation as a company to put people first,” said Gill.
It was important for Hydro One to understand the unique needs of the communities it serves. The company partnered with GlobalMedic, a registered Canadian charity specializing in disaster relief, and delivered over 13,500 critical aid kits of food and safety supplies – including food staples, reusable face masks and soap – to Indigenous communities across the province. As well, Hydro One donated $300,000 worth of food to Feed Ontario’s COVID-19 Emergency Food Box Program.
These measures provided quick and meaningful support to those that needed it most. Thousands of Ontarians received support from Hydro One’s Pandemic Relief Program. Approximately $5 million in security deposits was returned to more than 4,000 businesses across the province.
In moments of crisis, it’s vital for government and business to work in tandem to make sure everyone has the support they need.
Hydro One heard from its customers that they wanted more choice and flexibility – especially with the changes to daily life.
Not only does the company now offer a suite of customization offers, from choosing billing due dates to monitoring electricity consumption by signing up for early high usage notifications, but also, for the first time ever, the Ontario government offered electricity customers a choice between Time-of-Use (TOU) and tiered electricity pricing – something Hydro One had been advocating for.
“As a customer-driven organization, we believe we have an important responsibility to offer our customers relief, flexibility and choice,” said Gill.
In addition to Hydro One’s financial supports, the Ontario government’s enhanced COVID-19 Energy Assistance Program (CEAP) for residential and small business customers, which offers one-time credits on their bill, provided multiple avenues of help to Ontario’s electricity customers. The last year has been challenging, which is why it’s important for Hydro One and businesses across the province to work with customers on a case-by-case basis to find the solution that’s right for them.
Hydro One also supported Ontario’s Ministry of Health by helping contact travellers entering Ontario to ensure they followed quarantine measures and providing guidance to help contain the spread of COVID-19.
This was an all-hands-on-deck approach to dealing with this crisis, connecting with our customers and working with the province to be there for communities.
A LASTING DIFFERENCE
Nearly two years later, it’s clear that putting customers first and providing a variety of support measures resulted in real change.
Focusing on customers and customer advocacy helped the company achieve high customer satisfaction scores, with residential and small business customer satisfaction increasing to 87 per cent from 86 per cent, and Hydro One Telecom customer satisfaction increasing to 91 per cent from 90 per cent.
“With our new strategy in place, we are focused on our mission of energizing life for people and communities through a network built for the possibilities of tomorrow,” said Gill.
While it’s clear the prioritization of customers prepared Hydro One for the moment at hand and led to meaningful change in customer satisfaction, there is more work to be done and more to learn.
Hydro One will continue to put the needs of its customers above all else and find ways to build a better and brighter future, and energize life right here in Ontario.
ABOUT HYDRO ONE
Hydro One is Ontario’s largest electricity transmission and distribution service provider. They distribute electricity across Ontario to nearly 1.4 million predominantly rural customers, or approximately 26 per cent of the total number of customers in Ontario. In November 2015, Hydro One became a publicly trad