Supporting customers through utility bill deferrals
The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are far reaching, and many individuals and businesses had their incomes disrupted.
With this in mind, we moved quickly to ensure that customers had assistance during one of the most challenging times in the pandemic. Working with the Government of Alberta, the City of Edmonton, and others in the utilities sector, we supported the design and launch of a utility bill deferral program — not just for EPCOR customers, but province wide.
Recognizing that customers were vulnerable to both financial hardship and uncertainty, the program allowed any residential and small business customer to defer bill payments for up to 90 days and suspended late fees and disconnections. No application process or evidence of hardship was required — the benefit was offered universally.
By June 18, 2020, 114,000 of our Alberta customers had opted to defer utility payments. While participants would have until June 2021 to repay their deferred balances, by the end of 2020 a large majority of participants had already done so.
Seamless service through a dramatic transition
As part of our ongoing investments in customer service, we implemented a new customer information system to improve how we managed accounts and supported customers, all while team members either moved to a work-from-home environment or implemented extensive safety precautions for in-person work.
Approximately 1,900 of our employees transitioned to working from home — including our customer care team, that handle more than 20,000 calls a month. Backed by a robust business continuity plan and technology infrastructure, the team maintained high service levels even as their work environment changed.
In the field, some customer-facing programs were temporarily suspended from in-person delivery or transitioned to virtual delivery. But the daily operations, maintenance and construction of utility services continued uninterrupted; we delivered the largest capital program in our history, achieving superior reliability performance, and surpassing every customer satisfaction target set by regulators.
Adapting to a transformed community
With many customers and students working from home, and with businesses struggling with the impacts of public health measures, critical system maintenance and upgrades could not go on as “business as usual.”
In our electricity business, teams made every effort to limit planned power outages, to mitigate the larger ones, and support customers. This included calling in additional crews, completing more pre-work to limit the outage duration, shifting work to overnight when it could be done safely, and in some cases, providing generators to ensure continuity of service during maintenance work.
Keeping each other safe
Each step of the way, Team EPCOR worked to keep each other safe and healthy and ensure the same for our customers.
Health protection measures were rolled out across our operations, including capacity restrictions, signage and protection measures, disinfection protocols and supplies, on-site health screening, contact tracing, and extensive educational resources and safe work procedures. As the pandemic continued, increasing attention was placed on providing mental health supports and resources to employees.
The overall response was guided by EPCOR’s Emergency Coordination Center and Emergency Operations Centers in all business units and regions. Together, we continue to implement and monitor our emergency response and business continuity plans.
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