Meet our members – Nikki Stopford, South Eastern CEG member and Customer Working Group member

Like most people, I was far more familiar with the energy companies trying to sell me electricity than the distribution companies responsible for powering my home. I would have struggled to name my local distribution network operator.

I got interested when I learned a fifth of my energy bill goes towards using and looking after the energy network. You can’t choose the company that distributes electricity to your home, so I wanted to understand how energy networks work to ensure value for money for the people they serve. And, importantly, how they are working to ensure a greener future.

For over 10 years, I was the Group Director of Research and Publishing at Which? - the UK’s largest independent consumer organisation. I was responsible for the research and content programmes designed to educate and inform consumers and influence policymakers and business.

So, I have a lot of experience and expertise in gaining insight and understanding about how people use and view products and services, and in holding companies to account if they don’t deliver a good and fair deal for consumers.

When I first met Ann Bishop, the Chair of the Customer Engagement Group (CEG) for UK Power Networks, her commitment to ensuring the CEG delivers a real impact for the customers it represents was compelling.

I’ve worked with many committees representing customer and stakeholder interests regionally, nationally and internationally over the past 20 years. And, sadly, I have first-hand experience of organisations simply paying lip service to consumer representation.

Thankfully, senior leaders are now increasingly prioritising customer and stakeholder engagement and seeing its importance in helping them develop trusting and meaningful relationships to understand and meet the needs of customers and communities.

Management consultancy McKinsey1 found in its latest global survey on external engagement that senior executives are increasingly recognising the importance of engaging with their stakeholders, with 60% ranking it in their CEO’s top three priorities.

But it’s not easy to do this effectively. Companies need to have the right mindsets, tools and capabilities. They need to be engaging the right people at the right time to help shape a better business. And seeing engagement with critics as important as engaging supporters.

I want to use my expertise during the CEG’s challenge process to ensure that UK Power Networks’ customers and communities are put at the heart of actions to deliver a high-quality and responsible business for the future.

1 The pivotal factors for effective external engagement, McKinsey & Company, May 2020.