Canstar Blue is thrilled to announce that Pulse Energy’s Pay It Forward program is a winner of its Innovation Excellence Awards 2021. The awards, which involve a sophisticated rating methodology unique to Canstar, compare the latest innovations from telecommunications and energy institutions throughout New Zealand.
The winners are scored based on how disruptive, new, or unique their products are, with the addition of their overall wow factor. The awards also rate the products’ affordability and ease of use, to measure the impact that the innovations have on consumers’ everyday lives.
This year’s submissions were of an extremely high quality and Canstar’s team of expert judges was particularly impressed by the trend towards innovations designed to support Kiwi consumers’ personal needs.
“We all had a tough 2020, due to the stresses of COVID-19 and uncertainty in so many aspects of our lives. This year, we saw through our awards that local businesses stepped up to help,” says Canstar NZ General Manager Jose George.
“Our winners innovated to deliver products and services that simply made New Zealanders’ lives easier, better and cheaper. They did the right thing, and we applaud them for that.”
Pulse Energy: Pay It Forward
Pulse Energy’s Pay It Forward program reflects Pulse Energy’s values as a community-owned business – one that captures the kindness of New Zealanders. Pay it Forward enables Pulse Energy customers to add a small monthly contribution to their power bills to support families experiencing energy hardship.
As it features no fees or conditions, plus affordable contributions, the program was deemed by the Canstar judges as having a considerable impact for those experiencing financial hardship. By providing financial support to households experiencing energy hardship, Pay it Forward gives vulnerable families some much-needed opportunity to get back on their feet.
To mark Pulse Energy’s win, Canstar Blue asked Sharnie Warren, General Manager Customer Experience, Pulse Energy, to discuss the many merits of the Pay It Forward program.
Canstar Blue: What are the origins of the Pay it Forward Program?
Sharnie: During the first lockdown in March 2020, the Pulse Energy management team held a number of remote meetings to discuss how we could support our customers, recognising that the lockdown would cause significant emotional and financial stress for many families.
It was during these sessions that the Pay it Forward program began to take shape. As part of the planning process, we reached out to current customers for feedback. The support was overwhelming, with more than 40% saying they would want to take part.
Less than two weeks later, the Pay it Forward was launched. Under the program, our customers can add a small monthly contribution to their power bill to support families experiencing energy hardship.
Canstar Blue: Who does it help?
Sharnie: The Pay it Forward program fund is used to make contributions to households that are experiencing energy hardship, so that those customers can provide a warm and healthy home for their families.
The program embodies the kindness of New Zealanders, and reflects our values as a community owned business.
Across every level of our company – shareholders, board, management, staff and customers – we’re working together to support households facing energy hardship.
Energy hardship (defined as energy costs exceeding 10% of a household’s income) is a serious problem in New Zealand. Over one-in-five Kiwi households have experienced hardship, and each year over 20,000 households have their power disconnected due to not being able to pay their bills.
Energy hardship and the inability to adequately heat a home result in unhealthy and unacceptable living conditions that disproportionately affect children.
The pandemic has amplified this issue. COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdowns resulted in a surge in the number of households experiencing financial vulnerability. With families facing job losses, reduced hours and/or reduced remuneration, many New Zealanders found themselves struggling to keep up with essential household bills.
At the peak of the pandemic, our frontline staff were speaking to a growing number of customers who were struggling to pay their energy bills as a result of COVID-19.
Canstar Blue: Do participants in the program get feedback about where their money is going?
Sharnie: Contributors to the Pay it Forward program receive regular updates by email about where the money is going. We frequently share stories about families who have benefited and provided comments. Last Christmas, we organised large food hampers and supermarket vouchers for families our call centre had recognised as needing a bit of support.
Canstar Blue: What has the response been to the program, from customers and those you’ve helped?
Sharnie: We’ve been inundated with support from our customers about our Pay it Forward program – whether from grateful recipients of financial support, or feedback from customers who value the opportunity to lend a helping hand.
We have witnessed first-hand the impact the Pay it Forward program can have on people’s lives. Kirsty and Amanda’s stories are just two of many we have heard from customers who have received support.
Kirsty: “It was very timely. I rang because I was really struggling due to Covid-19 and was wondering how I was going to afford my next power bill. When I called, the team at Pulse Energy offered me support from the Pay it Forward program. It was a huge weight off my shoulders and it allowed me to catch up. Thanks so much to the team at Pulse Energy and the customers who contribute to the program.”
Amanda: “My husband is off work and not getting any sick pay. I was worried thinking about how we were going to afford to pay our power bill while we had no income. Receiving the Pay it Forward contribution was such a big help, and relieved the stress and worry I was feeling. It has been such a big help at a very tough time. I give back to others when I can, and it was so nice to have something given to me for a change.”
Since receiving help from the program and getting back on her feet, Kirsty has signed up to be a contributor herself, to help others and really pay it forward!
If you want to read more about the full winners of Canstar Blue’s Innovation Excellence Awards 2021, click here. Or to learn more about the best power providers in the market and how to save money on your power bill, click on the big button below.