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Council applauds positivity that is powering city workforce

The leader of Sunderland City Council has applauded the efforts of 2,000 Sunderland workers, who are keeping positive energy flowing to customers during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Councillor Graeme Miller has commended the work of employees of energy provider npower, who have stepped up their efforts to support customers despite the lockdown.

The company has put in place a range of new initiatives to ensure that employees – including more than 2,000 people from its Rainton Bridge call centre - are supported to stay happy and well during lockdown, which still applies to those who are able to work remotely.

The well-known business, which serves more than 3m residential and business accounts with gas and electricity, has introduced a range of new activities, from online bingo to mindfulness, as it works to support its team and keep morale high during the pandemic.  The company moved to remote-working quickly after the UK’s lockdown was announced by Government, having started to prepare some weeks before the measures were announced by the Prime Minister. 

Now it is ensuring that its team maintain a sense of community, by running virtual team meetings and a number of other activities, to keep colleagues feeling connected and supported as they adjust to their new way of working.

Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “Again and again, we are hearing positive stories of the efforts of people in this city to ensure that they support their employers, and vulnerable people who are impacted by COVID-19.  Sunderland is home to a resilient, hardworking and determined workforce and that is coming to the fore during this crisis.

“The efforts of npower staff in Sunderland to ensure that they continue to deliver excellent customer service doesn’t surprise me.  We’re a city that is known for the commitment of our people and I’m proud of all they are doing during this crisis.”

Carl Bowles, Director of Customer Contact at npower, said that the team in Sunderland who normally operate from Rainton House in Houghton-le-Spring, supported by partners in Peterlee and across the UK and Ireland, have stepped their service up a gear to ensure that customers – and in particular, vulnerable residents - are well-supported during the crisis. 

He said: “Our people at npower and across our partner support teams have been absolutely exceptional.  During what we know is a very worrying time for everyone, the resilience, responsiveness and total commitment to supporting our customers has absolutely shone through from everyone in the Sunderland team, and it’s been truly inspiring to see.

“Our team are working from dining room tables and living rooms across the North East to support our customers – and they’re doing so with a smile on their face, delivering exceptional service.  We are keen to support them to stay well and happy, with activities that help them stay in touch with friends and colleagues at work and that ensure they’re in the best possible mindset every day, during this challenging time.”

The company’s early preparations for COVID-19 closures meant it was able to move to more agile working – moving 3,000 people to home-working – within two weeks of the pandemic reaching UK shores, and the willingness of its team meant that npower was able to re-train customer service staff to handle a range of queries that have become more commonplace during the lockdown. 

Many of the calls the company is currently receiving are from customers who are having difficulty with money, brought about by COVID-19, and the team are working to assist wherever they can. 

Hayley Willis, Communications Manager for Residential and Business at npower, said: “The nature of calls and contact we are receiving from our customers is very different to the usual mix of calls and correspondence we handle, so we have quickly geared the team up to support customers, and their response has been amazing. 

“I have never been more proud to work at npower than I have been over the last two months; to see the phenomenal response of colleagues to this crisis and the way in which they continue to provide exceptional support during really challenging times.  Customer service ratings are higher than ever right now, and that’s testament to the sheer commitment, positivity and dedication of the team.”

She added: “We have a strong culture of caring for our team and our customers and that has been so important during this crisis.  The work we’re doing to ensure our team remains motivated, happy and well means that our customers continue to receive excellent service.  It’s uplifting to be part of the team.”

The company has been able to carry on, largely ‘business as usual’, with customer service during the pandemic and its contact centres have remained open and able to assist those who are struggling during the crisis. 

A small proportion of npower team members have been furloughed on 100% pay, and many are using npower vans – which are not being used by service teams, due to social distancing measures preventing non-emergency work being carried out – to support their local community.