Over the past two weeks AGL’s Assist Team have been out and about engaging directly and hearing from financial counsellors and community workers at three conferences around the country. Financial counsellors and community workers are at the coalface supporting Australians with all sorts of difficulties – from mental health, to domestic violence and those in financial difficulty.
‘If we’re going to deliver better solutions for our customers with affordability issues, we need to be out and about engaging directly with the community sector and customers. This helps us build a better understanding of the challenges and ways we can intervene earlier to avoid situations where customers are spiralling into large outstanding debts’ says AGL Assist Lead Gabby Sundstrom.
First off to the Financial & Consumer Rights Council annual conference of financial counsellors in Victoria. At the conference, the FCRC released the second instalment of the Rank the Energy Retailer report – where financial counsellors rated the service provision to vulnerable customers of retailers in Victoria. Some good news for the industry – all three major retailers improved practice, with 1st and the most improved going to Energy Australia. AGL rated second out of all retailers for the second time, with improvements from 2014. The report highlighted there is still room for improvement and a need to focus on support for customers with long-term difficulties, along with changes to energy concessions.
Next, up to sunny Queensland to attend the Queensland Council of Social Services conference where AGL sponsored the Cost of Living Masterclass. AGL presented alongside Kildonan UnitingCare, Good Shepherd Microfinance and Suncorp Insurance on best-practice partnerships and opportunities for government, industry and the community sector to work together to better support vulnerable Australians. AGL received some positive feedback for the $500,000 donation to the QLD Government ‘Switched On Communities’ program to assist vulnerable Queenslanders to engage with the newly de-regulated energy market, to find the best deals and support.
Lastly, Gabby Sundstrom & Anthony Luppino headed up to Sydney to the annual Financial Counsellors Association of New South Wales conference. The first year AGL has attended this conference, we heard some really positive feedback about AGL’s domestic violence and financial counselling hotlines.
The team has some fantastic ideas already in motion ranging from updating our education packs around energy use and energy savings for customers, developing new early intervention communications when customers first start getting off track and some great test and learn pilots around customer donations.
This ongoing engagement for AGL people with external community organisations will continue throughout 2017 – it’s just going to be the way we do business. To deliver better solutions for our customers, we need to be out in the community talking to customers, to make sure we really understand their needs and drivers.
FY2017 is going to see a step-change in the way AGL approaches debt and vulnerability - focusing on early intervention for payment difficulties and best-practice partnerships with government to address long-term financial distress and vulnerability.
The team is really looking forward to the coming financial year and would like to say a big thanks to all of the financial counsellors and community workers who have supported our customers and provided feedback!