Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Energy firm staff trained to spot signs of dementia

Energy firm staff trained to spot signs of dementia in customers in "groundbreaking" move
Staff at energy company SSE have been trained to recognise signs of dementia in customers in a move described as ground-breaking by researchers.
Staff at energy company SSE have been trained to recognise signs of dementia in customers in a move described as ground-breaking by researchers.
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Experts at Stirling University provided the company's Perth-based customer service advisors with the knowledge and skills to help them better meet the needs of those living with the condition.
As a result, some of the changes SSE will look to make for people with dementia include reducing background noise when on the telephone or changing the times of day advisors contact customers.
Staff will also adopt new verbal and written communication styles and techniques, as well as signposting customers to support groups such as local dementia cafes.
Professor June Andrews at Stirling University's dementia development centre said: "We are delighted to help customer support staff to do their job better through an understanding of dementia.
"SSE is breaking new ground here, and it is not only good for customers but will help any of their own staff whose families or neighbours are affected by dementia.
"And all of that shows how businesses can really help the community."
Employees acted out a variety of scenarios which helped them to understand what life was like for those with dementia, watched videos and listened to experts talking about the condition with an aim to helping them provide better service for their customers.
Elaine Mathews, who works in the firm's priority services team, was one of the first employees to receive the training and said it was an eye-opening experience for her and her colleagues.
The team deal with many vulnerable and elderly customers who apply for additional assistance with their energy bills through the government's Warn Home discount scheme.
The 25-year-old said: "The training taught us about different things that a dementia sufferer may come into contact with, for example getting a fright easily by things like an energy bill, opening a letter or the print on the letter.
"During the training we watched a video showing us life through the eyes of a dementia sufferer and what kinds of things they may experience.
"When they are on the phone to us it can be difficult as we're only on the other end of a telephone line, we can't be there to comfort them in person.
"We did things which can help to reduce stress, like talking in a calm voice, making people relaxed, trying to diffuse a situation if the customer was to become angry or upset, keeping things in a light tone and manner, not becoming stern if they are getting angry on the end of the phone too."
Ms Mathews said the training helped the team identify areas where they could improve and now plan to use brighter colours and larger text on applications and make forms easier to complete using tick boxes.
Annette Sloan, SSE's Priority Services Co-Coordinator, said: "The increasing number of people living with dementia is a real concern for all of us. At SSE, we want to provide first class standards of service to all our customers - and to do that we need to be sensitive to to getting a fright easily by things like an energy bill, opening a letter or the print on the letter.
"During the training we watched a video showing us life through the eyes of a dementia sufferer and what kinds of things they may experience.
"When they are on the phone to us it can be difficult as we're only on the other end of a telephone line, we can't be there to comfort them in person.
"We did things which can help to reduce stress, like talking in a calm voice, making people relaxed, trying to diffuse a situation if the customer was to become angry or upset, keeping things in a light tone and manner, not becoming stern if they are getting angry on the end of the phone too."
Ms Mathews said the training helped the team identify areas where they could improve and now plan to use brighter colours and larger text on applications and make forms easier to complete using tick boxes.
Annette Sloan, SSE's Priority Services Co-Coordinator, said: "The increasing number of people living with dementia is a real concern for all of us. At SSE, we want to provide first class standards of service to all our customers - and to do that we need to be sensitive to the challenges some of them face.
"The training from the Dementia Centre was really powerful. We saw first hand how hard it is for people with dementia to do simple tasks - but we also learnt how a bit of thought from service providers can make life easier too.
"We are determined to provide as much support as possible to our customers affected by the condition. That means making sure employees are equipped with the skills and understanding to provide a better service to some of our most vulnerable customers.
"While this training has initially been delivered to advisors in Perth who work closely with our most vulnerable customers, it's part of our aim to improve our services for customers with dementia and ensure all front line employees can also benefit from awareness training."

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