Karen Sloan explains how preparation is key for maintaining services ahead of bad winter weather.

(Posted: 20/12/2018)

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Planning for winter weather needs to begin when the sun is still shining bright – and long before the first flake of snow hits the ground.

We only have to think back to 2018’s Beast from the East to remind ourselves of the impact that severe weather can have on our customers.

Over the past nine months we’ve been preparing for the first cold snap of this winter.

At the forefront of our thinking has been our passion for customer care. We know we are working in people’s homes at a time when they could be at their most vulnerable. We are dedicated to delivering first-class customer service, whatever the weather.

At Liberty, our winter protocol kicks in from October 1 – a full month before most in the sector – meaning we are working with clients on their adverse weather plans from the end of summer.

As part of our winter plan we have supplied 1,400 winter packs for both operatives and vulnerable customers across the UK in case of extreme weather conditions over the Christmas period.

For example, all our engineers now carry a special winter kit with everything they need to make sure they can still get out to jobs in bad weather.

Last winter we had reports of our gas engineers walking miles through the snow to get to people’s homes after roads were closed. That shows their dedication to completing jobs for those without heating or hot water.

Where possible, our vehicles have been fitted with winter tyres and snow socks, and access to 4x4 vehicles will be available if needed.

We have also been identifying homes that have experienced frozen pipe issues in the past and have taken steps to stop that happening again.

Communication is key, especially in times of severe weather – and partnership working between ourselves and our clients is very important.

When the cold weather strikes, demand for our gas services naturally increases.

That’s why we’ve developed a dedicated winter landing page on our website and a whole suite of materials to help clients communicate with customers on any quick fixes to common problems that we are often called out to deal with. The landing page includes six how-to videos including defrosting a condensate pipe, fixing broken heating or hot water and resetting a prepayment meter.

This helps create a more efficient and effective service and means that we can prioritise visits to people who are the most vulnerable.

This winter we have given care packages to clients for their vulnerable tenants which include winter essentials such as tinned goods and long-life food items. Our team also carry temporary heaters that they can give to customers so that they can keep warm while their heating is being repaired.

If a customer does need to call us to arrange a visit, our call-back feature means they can now request that we phone them back without having to wait on the line at busy times.

Of course, we remain in regular contact with clients so they can understand how much impact the weather may be having and have confidence that we are reaching those in need quickly so that they are safe and warm in their homes.

We may not be able to control the weather, but we are constantly keeping an eye on it.

Weather forecasting reviews are vital to supporting our planning and decision making at this time of year. We share updates daily so that engineers can be ready for bad weather.

These forecasts help us to be prepared, along with the wide range of measures we have in place to empower staff to do the best job possible and put the customer at the forefront of our work.

Whilst our buildings maintenance and repairs work isn’t quite as affected by the weather, we are applying the same principles to these contracts to ensure we always deliver high performance, no matter what across all our services.

This means we can deliver the highest standard of service to our clients across all areas of our work – come rain or shine, sleet or snow.

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