INNOVATION FROM ADVERSITY Electricity Distributors Association
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INNOVATION FROM ADVERSITY

Alectra Utilities

  • 19 January 2024
  • Author: Sari Maritzer
  • Number of views: 177
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INNOVATION FROM ADVERSITY

There are many lingering impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic. People across Ontario are still facing the economic consequences of this event, and many customers fell behind on bill payments as a result. In times of crisis, customers trust local utilities to support them when help is needed most – and Alectra was ready to step up.

BACKGROUND: CUSTOMERS IN ARREARS

Through the initial years of the pandemic, Alectra paused its disconnection policy to assist customers facing increased financial hardship – a compassionate corporate decision also undertaken by other utilities and essential services. Customers who were unable to pay their bills were reassured that their electricity would remain connected during this unprecedented time.

Gradually, the pandemic situation evolved and improved. During this recovery period, however, a large number of Alectra’s residential customers remained in arrears. As of April 2023, over 66,000 customers were in arrears, owing around $41 million in total, an average of $625 per customer. This was a 70 per cent increase from pre-pandemic levels.

Recognizing the business responsibility to collect these funds, but also a need to support vulnerable customers in the community struggling to make ends meet, Alectra devised a solution in early 2023 to help customers get “Back on Track.”

COMMITTED TO THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE

First, Alectra formed a specialized Customer Assistance Programs (CAP) team within its Customer Experience Department to help customers who do not meet the standard criteria for payment arrangement but face issues paying their bill – for example, paying for energy versus rent or food.

“The Customer Assistance Programs team is committed to being an ally to our customers, no matter how desperate their situation may be. We recognize that people go through difficult times, and we want to be there to support them,” says Kerry Lakatos-Hayward, Director of Customer Operations. “Our CAP team is one of the first of its kind in Ontario, but we hope to see other utilities follow our lead.”

The CAP team works with local agencies to establish more meaningful or sustainable solutions, such as helping with rent payments, childcare, job resourcing or even a short-term loan. This innovative solution is one way that Alectra showed up as an industry leader in customer care.

 

Click here to read more about Alectrs Utilities' article on Innovation From Adversity -  getting "back on track" post-pandemic with their new customer assistance program in the winter issue of The Distributor.

 

 

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