Mighty River Power says Helen Amituana'i has transformed how the company interacts with its credit-risk customers and with local communities since she took on the newly created community relations manager role in 2009.
After more than 10 years with the company, Helen's new role gave her two key objectives: to engage and foster relationships with community and government agencies; and to manage and to minimise Mercury Energy's exposure to credit-risk by working with customers experiencing difficulty in meeting bill payments.
Helen has managed to achieve these objectives by showing a commercial sensibility uniquely coupled with her strong sense of community responsibility and moral judgement. She has helped build understanding around the benefits of Mercury's GLO-BUG prepay electricity model as a solution for customers who struggle with traditional post-pay bill payment, explaining how the product can act as an effective budgeting tool to help monitor and control electricity consumption.
Her first step in promoting GLO-BUG was to identify the largest populations of credit-risk and highest cost-to-serve customers, and then enter these areas to engage with the key influencers and customers themselves. Helen has built relationships with local MPs and councillors, as well as government agencies such as Housing New Zealand and community organisations such as the Salvation Army.
Helen's hard work ensured commercial success, with strong growth in GLO-BUG customers in the past year despite a six-month delay due to restricted meter availability. That growth has benefits for Mighty River as growth in the GLO-BUG model is a key driver for the company's flat net debtor expense over the past three years, despite the ongoing effects of the global financial crisis on the financial health of New Zealanders.
Helen's success was also reflected in the results of the Electricity Authority's most recent audit under its medically dependent and vulnerable customer guidelines. Mercury was judged to be fully compliant and no changes were required.
Helen is an inspiration to all those she works with and has made such an impact in the community that she is regularly invited to speak on how people can reduce their financial burdens and better manage their own situations. She has been responsible for coordinating a series of multi-agency "Knowledge is Power" Community Information Days designed to empower the community with knowledge about the services and assistance available to them.
Her growing network of contacts has also given Mercury a presence at many local events, some of which would not usually think to invite electricity retailers, such as the Pasifika Festival, ASB Polyfest, the Auckland International Festival and many local family days.
In 2011 the Energy Executive of the Year Award category was sponsored by Transfield Worley.