We have all seen the news about an energy crisis and increases in energy costs, including potential changes to the energy price cap that do not benefit heat network consumers.
So we have put together some top tips to help effectively communicate tariff changes…
Develop a communications strategy – this should be proactive and include timings and methods of communication, as well as targeted communication with residents on your priority services register. This is the most critical step, and you should involve your marketing and comms teams, wherever possible.
Be transparent – being clear about how the tariff is calculated helps customers understand and appreciate potential changes, especially when communicated effectively. This includes simple graphical explanations which accompanies all communications.
Consult – where we know there is a possibility of costs going up at the end of a fixed period, it can be useful to take that time to work with on-site groups, community representatives and others to involve your customers in the tariff processes.
Discounts and incentives – you might be able to set up discounts and incentives that lower the overall cost of service, from having a maintenance check, through to always paying on time. If it lowers your costs and this benefit can be passed to customers that gives them more control.
Provide and target support – a tariff change, especially one that increases the cost, can affect people depending on their circumstances, providing a way in which they can feel safe in talking about their issues but also checking data for customers who might be struggling, not using the system or have other concerns. We believe its better to support than to just send a debt letter.
Provide choice – although not always possible, it can be beneficial to offer a small number of different tariff structures that customers can select. This can provide different balances between fixed and variable charges to suit their lifestyles.
Plan for the future – you could commit to providing an update on energy prices part-way through a year, you could provide updates on system efficiencies and what can be done to help improve it. This will help customers expect future changes and should form part of your communications strategy.
Ask for help – setting and communicating a tariff is the responsibility of a number of teams in an organisation, who might also need expert support from consultants but also from those with experience and that’s where we can also help.
Check the contracts – you might have a heat supply agreement with your residents, which specifies certain requirements about tariffs such as price indexing, you might have contracts with complex agreements with suppliers about future price changes. You must ensure you know what you are communicating is correct.
If you are unsure about how to approach a tariff change, or just want reassuring, please get in touch and our experts, who do this every day, are here to help and if we can’t, we will put you in touch with someone who can.
Some of the biggest challenges are when customers are unexpectedly back-billed, where tariff changes have little notice (less than 31 days) and where other issues with the utilities system are affecting residents, such as outages. These challenges present another key reason for effectively communicating tariff changes and other potential impacts.