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

Project partners from SSEN and the University of Dundee in the university grounds

Image caption: Dr. Irena Connon, Research Fellow (University of Dundee), Lisa Doogan, Director of Customer Relationship Management (SSEN) and Dr. Ed Hall, Senior Lecturer (University of Dundee) pictured in the Geddes Quadrangle, University of Dundee.

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.

For SSEN, this Knowledge Transfer Partnership has served to transform its customer service offering. Learnings from the partnership have resulted in an increased understanding of and commitment to delivering a better service to SSEN’s 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 training allows SSEN staff to adopt a very wide definition of vulnerability, assess and consider each situation and respond to customers as individuals.

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

  • The data quality of those on its 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 that their circumstances may change and appreciate that 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 KTP, appreciating that anyone can become vulnerable given a particular combination of circumstances.

“It is increasingly important for universities to demonstrate that research has significant impacts on society and the economy - this KTP 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.

For more information on Knowledge Transfer Partnerships from Innovate UK, please visit https://www.gov.uk/guidance/knowledge-transfer-partnerships-what-they-are-and-how-to-apply

About the author

Van on rural road

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks

We're responsible for maintaining the electricity networks supplying over 3.7 million homes and businesses across central southern England and north of the Central Belt of Scotland. We own one electricity transmission network and two electricity distribution networks, comprising 106,000 substations and 130,000 km of overhead lines and underground cables across one third of the UK. Our first priority is to provide a safe and reliable supply of electricity to the communities we serve in Scotland and England.

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