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Good news for Inclusive Service Providers

I approach life with a glass-half-full attitude. In my work, I actively seek out the progress being made by organisations, the good practice examples and the success stories. Including these in my training, podcasts and resources provide a much greater motivation for businesses to embrace inclusivity than simply telling them that’s what they are obliged to do. With this in mind, I wanted to share a good news story.

British Standard 18477:2010 Accreditation for Power NI

At the start of 2022, I read about Power NI becoming the first energy company in Northern Ireland to achieve BS18477. This British Standard is a verification of inclusive service. It is awarded to businesses that actively protect customers and inspire trust by making services available, usable and accessible to all customers.

This energy company is not regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Their actions weren’t driven by a need to comply with regulations; they have a genuine interest in providing exceptional customer service.

Some of the initiatives introduced by Power NI include:

· Providing bills in Braille, large print or spoken word

· Allowing more time for older customers to answer the door for meter readings

· Providing payment plans to support those who are struggling financially

· Training staff to recognise and respond with confidence to vulnerable circumstances

· Including Dementia-friendly champions in the customer service team

· Designing products and services with inclusivity in mind

It is great to see that Power NI has achieved this globally-recognised verification of its high standards of customer service. Further information is shared in this Power NI article. Other providers to have received this verification include SGN Gas, Affinity Water and Thames Water.

First NI Organisation to Achieve BS18477

This story took me back to 2019 when I began working with the Consumer Council in Northern Ireland. At the time, the organisation had set tangible goals to improve and evidence inclusivity across the team and client base.

They were determined to treat vulnerable customers fairly and also wanted to achieve the following accreditation:

· Investors in People Gold Award

· Diversity Charter Mark

· Disability Confidence Accreditation

· BS18477 Inclusive Service verification

Achieving these standards is dependent on submitting applications and evidence, as well as being audited by external parties. Each wants to see that values that make a difference are embedded across the organisation.

As a vulnerable customer trainer and consultant, I was taken by the commitment that the Consumer Council have to fully embrace inclusivity. The team are open to ideas, keen to collaborate and determined to provide training and development opportunities for staff. Read more about my work with the Consumer Council NI in my LinkedIn article.

I was delighted when the Consumer Council were the first organisation in the country to achieve BS18477 Inclusive Service verification.

This wasn’t their only achievement; head to the Consumer Council NI website and you will see that all of the goals outlined in 2019 have been realised. In addition, they received Customer Service Excellence accreditation and were recognised as Responsible Business Champions and for NI Environmental benchmarking in 2020.

Building Consumer Trust

Achieving standards is more than recognition for your team’s efforts. It also builds consumer trust. If customers see this accreditation and read about the values that underpin it, they are reassured that the company cares. In competitive industries, this can be a powerful way of building the customer base.

It also encourages customers to be open about measures that would make life easier for them. Think how much more confident you would be about sharing a vulnerability if you felt confident that you would receive an empathic, helpful response.

If accreditation is on your organisation’s agenda for 2022, further information on applying for BS18477 is available on the BSI website: Wouldn’t it be great to share your good news story later in the year?

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