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Energy services customers
Gas customers1,079.01,081.61,114.5
Electricity customers335.9382.5482.1
Integrated water service customers
Total customers1,170.61,181.11,185.4
Urban hygiene services
Municipalities served (no.)173181181
Citizens served (thous.)2,7052,7572,778

There was an additional increase in the number of customers in 2011, particularly for energy services. That growth was realised both due to commercial activities and as a result of acquisitions. The awarding of the tender for services subject to protection in the regions of Tuscany, Lazio, Abruzzo, Molise, Puglia and Lombardy contributed 21 thousand additional electricity supply points. Together with successful sales activities, this increased electricity supply points by 26%, compared to +14% at the end of 2010. Supply of the gas service also increased by almost 4%, against growth of 0.2% in 2010. The objective was achieved thanks to the merger by incorporation of Sadori Gas, which works in the Marche area, into Hera Comm Marche, and significant free market sales activities.
The excellent results achieved have been possible due to product innovation, multi-service offerings and simplified management.
Particularly, product innovation was achieved with low costs and transparency, proposed with the new free market options "MomentoGiustoCasa" and "MomentoGiustoLavoro".
Proximity to the customer was strengthened in widespread activities at over 100 branches located throughout the areas served, with excellent service levels and continuous reinforcement of the sales force. Regarding these last two aspects, strong attention was placed on the maintenance of high behavioural standards, in line with the Code of Ethics and the Code of commercial conduct governing the sale of electricity and natural gas.
In 2012, we will continue to work on focusing on customer needs and service levels by:

  • developing new products and offers aimed at providing customers with added value;
  • continuously improving in management streamlining;
  • continuously training representatives and the sales force, maintaining direct and continuous quality controls.

Commercial policies

The increase in supply points and customers for free market services was obtained by following a policy of commercial development that is based on the following main pillars for Hera:

  • multiple services offer: simplifying management for customers by proposing a single contact point and only one bill for energy services (gas and electricity) and the concessions (water and urban hygiene) in the areas handled;
  • proximity to customers: to be physically close to customers through a widespread network of branches in the entire area served and the widespread sales structure; to be quickly accessible through a call centre and the web; to be socially responsible and contribute with our activities to the growth of the territory and of the local communities;
  • simplification of management: customers given the option of managing bills on their own through the Her@ ON-LINE portal and requesting electronic mailing of the bill and the direct debiting of utilities;
  • low cost and transparency: to make our offers always competitive and clear and adapted to the needs of all customers (over thirty offers are currently available, many of which can be customised further).

The commercial strategy applies to all customer segments: households, small and medium sized companies, large companies, condominiums and public bodies, with the households segment achieving an increasingly central role.
In 2011, Hera Comm launched the new offers "MomentoGiustoCasa" and "MomentoGiustoLavoro" electricity and gas offers, to provide a discount on the energy component set forth by AEEG, for the households segment and to the companies segment. The innovative and original offers are differentiated based on lifestyles, timing of life and customer activity, and take into account the organisation of domestic and business life. Each of the profiles analysed, for both gas and electricity, involves a higher discount which is more favourable to the customer, applied during times of day when consumption is highest.
Regarding the sales of electricity to companies, the Energia Verde (Green Energy) option of acquiring energy produced from renewable sources has been renewed. Options offered to large companies, subject to dedicated analyses, are increasingly more in line with their needs and the developments of the wholesale market.

The Hera Comm sales network and commercial conduct

To sell energy services to medium and small customers (households and companies), Hera Comm uses multifirm agents which propose contracts through door-to-door sales, by telephone, or by setting up appointments with customers. The Quality system defines agency selection, which involves assessing conduct in similar sectors, loyalty to a principal company, corporate solidity and years of business.
Hera Comm personnel (area managers) regularly provide all of their commercial staff and managers of agencies or their subagents, with specific training including the content of the Code of commercial conduct defined by AEEG and the rights recognised to end customers. For telephone sales, personnel uses a sales script which is regularly updated with new regulatory aspects and represents a guide of information to be transferred to the potential customer during the pre-contractual phase.
Hera Comm Area Managers also periodically support customers in assessing whether the rules provided have been applied correctly. Training is always provided before delivering the materials necessary to conclude contracts with end customers.
Regarding the rules of conduct for agents and subagents, Hera Comm has used a Sales Manual for years (integral part of the Agency Mandate, which includes the Hera Group Code of Ethics), which all partners must sign. Regarding recognisability, sales personnel must display their identity card and must present themselves to the customer clearly explaining that they work for a Hera Comm authorised agency.
There is particular focus on the quality of contracts proposed by agencies, specifically any unrequested contracts, for which the Hera Comm agency mandate sets forth specific penalties. All non-compliances related to any unrequested contracts, together with other types of non-compliance, are tracked in order to apply the penalties set forth and, if the agency does not apply corrective actions, the agency mandate is terminated for just cause. In order to promptly intercept unrequested contracts and ensure more customer protection, Hera Comm has also decided to:

  • send a welcome letter to domestic customers for paper contracts as well and not only for contracts concluded by telephone;
  • send the welcome letter to non-domestic customers;
  • extend the right to back out of the contract to non-domestic customers and to domestic customers, even if the contract was stipulated at a branch and not by telephone.

Furthermore, in order to ensure the prompt receipt of the customer's change of decision, it was decided that the free market supply would be activated two months after the customer signs the contract.
Controls and corrective measures concerning this phenomenon regard contracts formalised by employees and by sales agents. All contracts are subject to a preventive quality check aimed at controlling the authenticity of the contract's signing, while for telephone contracts, there is also a system to check the quality of a sampling of calls. If fraudulent conduct is suspected, Hera Comm initiates controls and corrective actions aimed at excluding its personnel's sales methods which do not comply with the legal and regulatory context in force and professional integrity.
To confront the phenomenon of unrequested contracts, Hera Comm has proposed a dual approach to AEEG: preventive, and issue management. From the prevention perspective, Hera Comm suggested that it would strengthen the welcome letter instrument before the contract is activated, in order to inform the end customer and to help customers to not enter into contracts which, if informed, they would not have otherwise signed. Related, instead, to management, Hera Comm suggested that it would introduce a regulatory institution founded on the application of a price aligned with the protection conditions to customers who are victim to incorrect commercial practices, without prejudice to the right of customers to change their minds and withdraw.