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Commercial Policy and Customer Care

Commercial Policy and Customer Care

The commercial policy for 2009 was basically broken down into two major programmes:

  • Commercial Development
  • Optimisation of Customer Management


Commercial development 

During 2009, growth continued, with an increase in customers in all services and resulting in a positive balance in the number of supply points (as highlighted in the table)

 31-Dec-200931-Dec-2008Change% Change
Gas                             1,079,014            1,073,145                    4,7060.44%
Electricity                                335,880               286,900                 48,98017.07%
Water                             1,170,641            1,153,900                 16,7411.45%
TIA                                950,160               941,449                    8,7110.93%

This increase in free market services was achieved by continuing the commercial development policy that breaks down into the following points:

  • multi-service offer: simplifying customer management by offering a sole contact and a single bill for energy services (gas and electricity), and also for those licensed (water and municipal sanitation) in the areas managed;
  • proximity to the customer: being “physically” close to customers through a network of branches and a widespread sales structure; being quickly accessible through contact centres and the web; being socially responsible and contributing to the growth of the territory and local communities through its activities;
  • simplified management: independently manage one’s bill through the new HER@ ONLINEsite and the possibility of requesting the bill to be sent via email;
  • economic advantage and transparency: proposing offers that are always competitive and clear, suited to the needs of all customers (over thirty offers are available, many of which can be further customised).
  • Consistent with enhancing the multi-service offer, at the end of 2009, approximately 260,000 bills were combined for customers who, to that point, had been receiving two separate bills for Hera services. This allowed the benefit of a single bill to be extended to even more customers.

The commercial strategy is broken down differently depending on the various types of customers:

  • families,
  • small and medium-sized companies,
  • large companies
  • blocks of flats,
  • public administrations.

In 2009 for the Families segment, the “Tre per Te” offer was finalised, a duel fuel sales offer at a declining fixed price for three years that also has a dual time band option.
In relation to electricity sales to companies, Hera Comm proposed offers of both electricity as a single supply as well as paired with gas (dual fuel offer), and offering, in addition, the Energia Verde option in 2009, or the possibility of purchasing energy produced from renewable sources.

Optimisation of customer management  
Since its establishment, the Hera Group has chosen to maximise integration between services and group systems by setting up a single platform that is composed of two main structures:

  • Group Invoicing and Collection System
  • Management channels


Group invoicing and collection system  
Through its shared systems, Hera issued more than 16.5 million bills in 2009, following the multiservice strategy which allows our customers to simplify the administrative part and reduce payment costs. Requests have continuously increased for electronic sending of bills, implemented in the second half of 2008 and reaching 20,000 at the end of 2009. 

In addition to the existing payment methods at Sisal and Lottomatica outlets and online payment by credit card, in 2009 we added the possibility of paying bills at checkout counters at Coop Adriatica and Coop Estense supermarkets and hypermarkets. The strong growth trend in all payment methods continued for customers not using direct debit, reaching approximately 20,000 payments per month at Sisal and Lottomatica outlets, approximately 2,200 payments per month online with credit cards and nearly 2,500 payments per month at Coop checkout counters. 

There was an increase in usage of the new method for customers to communicate self-readings of meters through SMS, available since 2007, in addition to existing telephone and internet communication.

Management channels
In 2009 the Hera Group continued its policy of strengthening customer contact channels, with the goal of making it increasingly simple and fast to contact Hera. The Group has 5 separate contact channels:

  1. family call centres
  2. company call centres
  3. branches
  4.  web
  5. mail

Several parameters of services rendered that highlight the accessibility of these channels are shown below.

Average contact centre waiting time (secs)     
residential customers70.234.546.266.133.2
business customers 43.926.842.425.2
Number of calls to the contact centre (no.)     
residential customers1,394,4581,991,2642,375,8232,489,1802,428,392
business customers 59,686105,447115,997152,046
Percentage of successful calls to the contact centre (%)     
residential customers87.10%94.10%94.20%93.20%94.20%
business customers 89.00%97.60%95.50%92.60%
Average waiting time at branches (mins)      

With the extension of operating standards for queue management to some secondary branches and the implementation at primary branches of "differentiated queues" (residential and business), the F.A.S.T project (Automated Time-Saving Queues), which began in 2008, was completed in 2009.  With this implementation, waiting times improved compared to the prior year (approximately 15 minutes compared to 18.5 in 2008) despite an increase in number of customers, and, at the same time, attained a notable reduction in the waiting time for customers with VAT numbers, consistent with the results of customer satisfaction surveys.
There is a strong presence of Hera branches in the area served: 86, of which 8 principal branches located in the major cities served, 38 medium-sized "priority” branches, normally located in non-major cities, 47 "contact points", or small to medium-sized branches, usually in decentralised areas.  In these branches an important advertising campaign was launched in 2009 to communicate Hera’s desire “to be present” in the area.
Two principal branches in Imola and Ravenna were renovated in 2009, consistent with the layout renovation project of all major Group branches which began in 2007 with Bologna, followed by Forlì and Cesena in 2008, and which will continue with Modena and Ferrara in 2010. At the same time, the process of renovating the secondary and smaller branches continued, consistent with the visual identity of the main project, through which the Group intends to unify its branches with a recognisable image, regardless of the branch size.

During 2009, there was significant improvement in all measures of the call centres’ accessibility and service quality, given an equivalent number of contacts received.
The average waiting time was halved compared to 2008, and reached its lowest level since 2005, as well as being lower than the targets established by the AEEG (Italian Authority for Electricity and Natural Gas).

In addition to telephone communication, web services have been enhanced (Hera on line) which allow customers to check their accounts and perform transactions such as meter self-readings, online payments and receiving bills electronically.

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