Power through adversity

17 April 2020

Do we go a day at the moment without hearing terms such as ‘strange times’ ‘unprecedented’ ‘stay safe’ ‘stay home’? The list goes on… It’s become staple language in response to the silent enemy that has shaken up the world.

But what we have witnessed is people coming together with a common aim; to battle, defeat and rise victorious against Covid-19.

I think back to early 2020; people stepping into CNG Towers after Christmas, sharing stories in the kitchen, our monthly business-wide update where 175 people all pile onto one floor. So easy, so normal, so everyday business life. Who would have believed that within a few weeks our Harrogate HQ would be a ghost ship and we would be conducting our daily meetings through video conferences and hosting weekly webinars with Paul, our CEO.

I dare say there were other businesses like us who back in late January thought it was concerning world news, but we would be ok as it wouldn’t impact us….

By the 2nd March we had set up a Covid-19 crisis group.

I would like at this point to introduce Russ Tarver, our Risk and Review Manager. Only a few months into his career at CNG, he led the team that saw us withstand, adapt and mobilise the new norm for CNG. We now like to call him Risk-Averse-Russ. Even then, there were wry smiles and rolls of the eyes, as we wondered why a group of people were congregating daily to begin looking at business continuity, protecting our people and ensuring stability for our customers and partners for a virus that still seemed so removed from our everyday working life.

By the 3rd March, we had put in place:

  • Self-isolation for those who may have been in contact with an infected person
  • Hand sanitisers and washing guidelines around the office
  • Disinfectant wipes for desks, keyboards and phones
  • Kitchen areas and shared food were removed
  • Only ‘essential’ visitors were permitted into the office
  • Only ‘essential’ travel was allowed

By the 4th March we had a full Covid-19 strategy, with three response levels escalating from prevention to containment, to business continuity.

I could write a whole other piece on what this strategy had taken into account and prepared CNG for (get in touch if you want it!), but my point is this; we were ready and that’s why I felt compelled to write this.

I look back on what has only been a month since we enabled a remote workforce and witness the amazing people at CNG who showed power through adversity to enable a smooth transition with minimal disruption to business as usual for our customers, partners and employees.

On the 16th March our IT infrastructure team; Jason, Aaron, Sam, Callum, Matt and Jake, had everyone equipped with a laptop, phone and even a contactless ‘drive-by’ hardware delivery service for tech issues/replacements.  The whole business was now working remotely and had been implemented within a week.

We have clear lines of communication and are operating like a well-oiled machine (give or take a couple of frozen faces and robotic movements on video conferences, which are generally rather amusing).

We are stronger today due to the gallant, speedy efforts of many at CNG to tackle this head on, and the ‘can do’ camaraderie from each and every person working at CNG.

I am sure many of you have experienced the teething problems and pain of businesses remaining operational when Covid-19 struck, whether that’s as a customer or within a business. It blind-sided many and left others helpless. We saw many of our customers’ businesses being affected by Covid-19 due to mandatory closures and naturally we had an influx of customer queries.

CNG has always taken customer service personally and aim to resolve queries there and then, rather than passing customers from pillar to post. It isn’t about getting the customer off the phone so that we can hit a target for ‘X’ number of calls answered in ‘Y’ time. It’s about customers being satisfied, feeling in control and having expectations met (if not exceeded in some cases). Yet we manage to deliver on both counts, service and speed.

Our call answer rate averaged 9 seconds pre Covid-19, it is now 20 seconds. When you hear other energy suppliers talk about how they have reduced their call wait time to under 50 minutes it made me stop and want to celebrate what a great Operational Team we have at CNG. I can’t name them all as there are unfortunately too many (even though I would love to), but I’m going to start giving more shout-outs to individuals more often, as it is down to each person and their powerful community spirit which I believe is the magic power behind CNG that cannot be replicated.

CNG is a true people for the people company. We do everything possible to support and empower our own, to empower customers and support our partners to thrive. Needless to say Power Up isn’t just a strapline, it’s our promise that we remind ourselves of everyday.

I never actively compare ourselves with others. CNG just aims to do the right thing by remaining true to our values. So when I hear great feedback from customers on how we have supported them through these ‘strange times’ (I couldn’t go the whole piece without using one of the terms) or our fantastic partners on what a great supplier we are to work with, when other suppliers have struggled to adjust, it makes me stop and reflect.

CNG has stood the test of time. It hasn’t always been plain sailing, but in our 26 years this is a stop and pinch myself moment as I am proud to witness how CNG has tackled this latest challenge we all face. I don’t normally shout out about CNG’s successes but I think right now some positivity means a lot.

Moments of success aren’t always about ringing the bell for the latest financial target achieved (don’t get me wrong, these are good times too), but my heart is proud of how CNG has responded to an escalating crisis.

Are we optimistic that the ban will be lifted soon? Not necessarily. Are we prepared and firing on all cylinders when it does? Definitely. So, I could end this with ‘Stay Safe. Stay Home.’ as this is still crucial but for those who know me, know I don’t always follow suit, so I will also say this… ‘Power Up through Adversity’.

Crime is down, communities come together to applaud our exceptional NHS, people are finding new ways of reconnecting with those they love, children are spending more time with their parents, and we will have a nation of expert banana-bread bakers. There’s too many to name. Protect yourselves, stay safe and we will all spread our wings and fly once again, because when the caterpillar thought the world had ended, it became a butterfly.

Jacqui x

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