New Knowledge Lights Up Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks' Communication Approach

Published on 28 May 2020

In partnership with health and social care experts at the University of Dundee, SSEN were able to improve the service they provide to customers, with a particular focus on people that experience difficulties during a power cut

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“The learning from the partnership has undoubtedly transformed the way we interact with and serve our customers.”

Lisa Doogan, Director of Customer Relationship Management at SSEN


Scottish and Southern Energy Networks (SSEN) are responsible for keeping the power on in Northern Scotland and in large areas of Southern England. In these areas, severe weather frequently causes power cuts and the company need to respond as engineers with the customer firmly in mind, so that they can anticipate and respond to individual customer needs, particularly during emergency situations.


The company had identified the need to transform their approach to and understanding of vulnerability to ensure that they were communicating in appropriate ways to meet the needs of their customers in these specific circumstances.

“The Knowledge Transfer Partnership with the University of Dundee has been a crucial step in SSEN becoming a truly customer focused organisation.”

Lisa Doogan, Director of Customer Relationship Management at SSEN


In November 2013 SSEN formed a partnership with the University of Dundee to identify how to approach this challenge. This was the first time that the company had engaged in a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP). It was also a first for their industry.

The KTP allowed them to tap into the expertise of the health and social care at the University of Dundee which identified a knowledge gap in SSEN staff when it came to understanding vulnerability.

This unveiled three key findings:

  1. Rethinking what it means to be vulnerable during a storm event
  2. Congested spaces, diverse places: the complex spatial dynamics of vulnerability
  3. Significance of cultural norms for understanding and mitigating vulnerability
“It is increasingly important for universities to demonstrate that research has significant impacts on society and the economy - this KTP project is an excellent example of this.”

Dr Edward Hall, Senior Lecturer in Human Geography, University of Dundee


  • These new learnings led to SSEN providing specialist training to employees in its customer contact centres and depots, helping the organisation provide the most appropriate service for each of its customers. The research findings of the KTP showed SSEN that the geographic and pre-defined categories of vulnerability were outdated and that being vulnerable isn’t about just one characteristic such as a chronic medical condition or disability.
  • The company now educates and trains SSEN staff to adopt a very wide definition of vulnerability.  This training enables staff to treat every customer as an individual, understand that their circumstances may change and appreciate that they may suddenly find themselves feeling vulnerable.
  • Working in partnership with the University of Dundee has been a crucial step in SSEN becoming a truly customer focused organisation.
  • The findings of the work have played a crucial role in allowing the company to combine engineering and business expertise with the unique opportunity to deliver an improved and informed service for their customers.
  • The company now prioritises their assistance based on each individual’s personal circumstances and the urgency and complexity of their customers’ needs. They now recognise that a one-size solution doesn’t fit every community or individual and their new customer vulnerability strategy ensures that customers can communicate with them on an equal basis, regardless of any impairments or language differences they may have.
  • The partnership between the University of Dundee and the SSEN has been awarded the highest grade of ‘Outstanding’ by Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.
“This project has directly informed our strategic priorities for supporting our customers and we are delighted with the award of ‘Outstanding’ from Innovate UK to recognise the hard work our teams put in to deliver a better service for those most vulnerable in our communities.”

Lisa Doogan, Director of Customer Relationship Management at SSEN


Nicola Madill

Marketing Manager

+44 (0)1382 381889