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Why businesses should be dementia friendly

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Sarwjit Sambhi

Sarwjit Sambhi
Managing Director, UK Home, Centrica plc

Businesses that can support customers living with dementia will see improved customer satisfaction and better conversations with people.

Nearly 300,000 people in Britain are living alone with dementia, according to Alzheimer’s Society research. And as many people again live in the community with others, often with partners who have complex health needs of their own.

We recognise that we have a special duty to the 200,000 customers we serve, who are living with dementia.

We know that with the right support and understanding, people with dementia can live active, heathy lives for a long time. Utility companieshave a particularly important role to play in ensuring people with dementia stay safe, warm and connected, says Sarwjit Sambhi of Centrica, owner of British Gas.

“As Britain’s largest energy supply and services business, we recognise that we have a special duty to the 200,000 customers we serve who are living with dementia. That’s why we decided to become a dementia friendly business in 2016,” says Sambhi.

Over the past two years more than 21,000 of our employees have become Dementia Friends, and the firm has also overhauled many of its processes, like Power of Attorney, to ensure they work for people with dementia and those who care for them. 

Dementia friendly guide

The company’s experience – (and that of other leading water, telecoms and energy businesses) – underpins a new guide to being dementia friendly.The guide is aimed at the utility sector as a whole.

Launched by Alzheimer’s Society Chief Executive Jeremy Hughes and Secretary of State Greg Clark in February – the guide gives practical advice for utility businesses of all sizes to help ensure that customers and employees living with dementia get the support they deserve.

“This advice is just as relevant to self-employed plumbers as it is to the largest companies,” says Sambhi. “We all need to talk to customers, to serve them and to ensure that they understand the advice and guidance we give them.”

Business benefits

Most of the measures recommended in the guide are low-cost – Dementia Friends sessions are free of charge, for example – but the business benefits can be very powerful.

“Since we started helping our people to become more aware of what dementia is and how it affects people, we’ve experienced a host of benefits,” Sambhi says. Among the benefits are better conversations with customers with dementia, which have improved now that agents and engineers understand why a customer may struggle to find the right word to explain what they need; fewer appointments that fail because customers forget to be at home; and fewer repeat visits or calls because agents and engineers are better at explaining how a product or service works.

“All of this is improving customer satisfaction and reducing waste to the business, as well as being the right thing to do,” Sambhi says. “There is no downside to becoming a dementia friendly business.”

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