For Italgas, quality of service goes well beyond simple business objectives: continuity, security, accessibility, emergency intervention and comprehensive efficiency of the system are a real assumption of responsibility in regard to the territories served and the end customers. In this context, the Group pays special attention to strengthening the relationship with the sales company, aiming to standardise processes and update the tools and procedures that allow access to services.
The operating and commercial activities are carried out with increasingly sophisticated computer systems that allow for a rapid flow of information in contract management. These systems are regularly updated according to the regulations issued by the Italian Regulatory Authority for Energy, Networks and Environment (ARERA), which regulates the services provided by the Italgas Group companies.
Italgas also invests in the territories in which it operates, promoting continuous dialogue and social, cultural and environmental interventions. In pursuing these interventions, Italgas interfaces with its interlocutors through criteria of transparency, correctness and impartiality, confirming its commitment to the values of collaboration and attention to people and the environment.
Every year, in order to guarantee the safety and efficiency of the gas distribution networks, the Group carries out extensive monitoring of its infrastructures. To this end, with regard to the verification of “electrical protection” conditions of the underground steel pipes, the cathodic protection remote monitoring system was again used in 2021 at 14,602 significant points on the network. Moreover, approximately 24,029 cathodic protection measures were carried out with a qualified operator on non-remote controlled points.
An additional preventive control on the reliability of the distribution system was the search for gas leaks into the atmosphere. In 2021, in compliance with the provisions of the Authority Resolution no. 569/19/R/gas, almost all the network managed was subjected to scheduled searches for leaks, recording quality standards that well exceeded those established by the Authority. In this segment, the Company extensively adopts a new method for searching for leaks based on the CRDS (Cavity Ring-Down Spectroscopy) method of the company Picarro Inc., as described below in the chapter on technological innovation. In addition to identifying leaks on aerial parts, which are normally impossible to access using the traditional method, this technology also performs much better at detecting leaks on underground parts of distribution plants, including utility derivations.
At the gas delivery points – city gate – measurement and odorisation takes place (with systems equipped with innovative automatic injection systems that can dispense just the right quantity of odoriser, according to the volumes of gas distributed) and the transit gas pressure is reduced, set to be transported through to the re-delivery points at the individual end customers’ premises (domestic or industrial consumers) where the gas is once again measured. In 2021, a further 122 gas chromatographs (Greta) were installed, in addition to the 35 of 2020, making for a total of 157 operative instruments on the network. These tools enable the continuous monitoring of the odorisation level at reduction plants considered to be significant. In addition, in compliance with the ARERA provisions, controls were carried out on the degree of odorisation at the significant points of the network, with laboratory gas chromatograph analysis (ACCREDIA certified) totalling 12,956 for natural gas and 150 for LPG. At 31 December 2021, the Group manages 889 reduction and measurement collection plants (IPRM); all the IPRMs managed are equipped with a remote control system to guarantee prompt intervention both in the event of an anomaly and of limits or interruptions to the regional service, as well as a continuous smart metering system that measures the gas entering its network.
To reduce the gas pressure before delivering to individual end customers, the Group has equipped itself with 1,220 intermediate reduction plants (IRI), 11,174 final reduction units and 8,043 industrial reduction units at the end customers gas delivery point.
In 2021, the natural gas conversion plan of the LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) distribution networks managed, continued; at 31/12/2021, Italgas Reti has just 2 more distribution plants used to channel LPG, while Medea has converted 26 plants, taking the number of plants still to be converted, to 5.
The technical-commercial operations carried out at end customers’ premises are done so in accordance with specific quality standards established by ARERA, which regard services such as quotations, works execution, the activation and deactivation of supply, respect of appointments, arrival times in situ for emergency reports and, finally, compliance with all technical standards relative to the installation and maintenance of plants making up the distribution and metering network.
The operative management of quality aspects is hinged on the management systems certified according to ISO 9001 standard and implemented at the level of each individual company.
In support of service safety and quality, Italgas has also activated two freephone numbers to be contacted as necessary by citizens and users:
The service is operative 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There is one Freephone Number for the whole of Italy for all the Municipalities where the distribution companies of the Italgas Group operate and is shown separately on the gas bill of the sales company, on the websites of Italgas and the Group companies and in the telephone directories of the municipalities served. The service is subject to control by the Italian Regulatory Authority for Energy, Networks and Environment (ARERA).
Anyone contacting the Emergency Intervention service is put in direct contact with an operator of the Integrated Supervision Centre and never transferred to another number. The dispatch of all calls is guaranteed and operators respond within a few seconds. Upon receipt of a report, the operators provide initial indications on how to behave in the event of gas leaks, a lack of gas or irregularities in the flow and dispersion. After the conversation with the caller, if the call was made from a mobile telephone, a text message is automatically sent to the caller’s telephone, with a link from which all steps of the report can be tracked, from when it is assigned to the team that will be intervening through to make-safe and problem-solving. At the same time, the Emergency Intervention unit is activated for the relevant verifications and technical operations, to safeguard citizens, make systems safe and restore the service to normal operating conditions as quickly as possible. Both the call and the technical intervention are free of charge.
The freephone number shown on the Italgas website is the same throughout Italy for all municipalities in which Italgas operates and manages requests for information coming from “Medea” users, the subsidiary operating in Sardinia. The service is not subject to any obligations imposed by the Italian Regulatory Authority for Energy, Networks and Environment (ARERA). By contacting the freephone number, users can receive information about multiple technical and commercial aspects by means of IVR (Interactive Voice Response), with the possibility, where envisaged, of being transferred to a Contact Centre service operator, a service that operates weekdays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and is managed entirely with in-house resources based in Italy. Through the Salesforce and Genesys applications, the Contact Centre operators manage the customer requests received over the telephone by e-mail, through the on-line help system, via social channels and requests made by users from “security” points, where present, for:
In order to guarantee the end customer more immediate, direct access to information about the Group and the activities relating to gas distribution, in 2020, Italgas launched the “Help Online” web portal (faq.italgas.it): a new self search tool consisting of more than 100 digital pages of browsable support, accessible from the Italgas website or directly from the main search engines to quickly find answers to the most frequently asked questions or, if the answer is not sufficient, from here, a request can be submitted that will be sorted and sent onto the competent services for handling. In 2021, the information contained in the Help Online platform has been added to, including new pages dedicated in particular to the topics of deactivation, activation and reactivation, 40/14 forms and the description of the new digital estimation service “ClickToGas”.
In 2021, the project continued seeking to evolve the “Customer Portal” called “MyItalgas”, with the aim of making the portal a clear touch point dedicated to end customers and to offer, through the digital channel, a more effective service and experience.
In actual fact, in addition to the functions already present at the time of the launch, i.e. those of consulting utility data (re-delivery point, meter serial number, etc.), verification of readings and consumptions, monitoring of cases and appointments, requests for quotations for works, submission of requests for information or complaints, in 2021, the function was also integrated into MyItalgas, allowing for the management of document assessment for reactivations, which could previously be managed through the Accertatemi Online portal.
In addition, the “Support” section has been created within My- Italgas, to best guide the customer with answers to the most frequently-asked questions and the possibility of sending specific requests, both for activities linked to the assessment and to estimations.
At the end of 2021, on the basis of the experience accrued through the MyItalgas, MyMedea and MyToscanaEnergia portals, the Customer Portal was extended to also include users served by the company Metano S.Angelo Lodigiano, through the launch of the MySantangelo portal.
With the aim of improving the end customer experience, speeding up estimate release times and increasing the sustainability of the entire process, in 2021, Italgas introduced a new digital site inspection procedure. Thanks to some additional information, requested on-line through MyItalgas when entering the estimate for the construction works or works to modify or remove the supply system, the customer can inspect the site with the Italgas technician digitally, scheduling a virtual appointment or, if the characteristics of the request allow, perform a self site inspection, which can be managed independently. ClickToGas and use of the virtual or self site inspection not only guarantee a quicker, more effective estimation service but also, in 2021, helped reduce staff movements on the territory and further protect the safety of end customers, employees and suppliers. In 2021, use of ClickTo- Gas made it possible to avoid 6,488 physical site inspections, thereby savings 37,2 tCO2 in emissions into the atmosphere 39.
In order to continually improve service quality indexes, 2018 saw Italgas launch a structured, continuous collaboration programme with the world of consumer associations, based on an equal relationship of mutual benefit and trust. This programme started with the stipulation of a Memorandum of Understanding, finalised early 2018 after lengthy preparatory work, signed by Italgas and by 19 of the 20 Consumer Associations recognised by the CNCU (Italian National Council of Consumers and Users) at what was then the Ministry of Economic Development.
The Memorandum of Understanding aims, on the one hand, to improve the relationship with the end user and the quality of service supplied by Italgas; on the other, to increase consumer awareness regarding the qualities of natural gas and how it is used.
During the first period of protocol implementation, particular focus was assured on the programme for replacing traditional gas meters with smart meters, so as to better understand the greater operative efficiency achieved, which reflects positively on the consumer, and the increase of the greater capacity to provide reliable, timely data on consumption to sales companies, thereby limiting incorrect billing or that based on estimated readings. At the same time, the smart meter makes it possible to provide the customer with a tool that can foster the adoption of responsible consumer behaviour and – ultimately – improve the quality of the relationship between the company and the end customer, at the same time reducing physical access to the home.
The targeted cooperation between associations and company has also made it possible to handle user reports of any disservices more quickly and, ultimately, through a comparison with the requests made by the association, to study and implement interventions specifically aiming to limit the number of those that are likely to give rise to complaints.
Thanks to the Protocol signed, Italgas and the associations worked together during specific territorial campaigns like, for example, the transformation to methane of the networks previously isolated and managed with LPG or particularly important unforeseen events, in order to facilitate the conversion, limiting, through due information, potential negative fallout impacting the consumer.
In 2021, the collaboration’s main focus was once again on the programme to methanise Sardinia, operating on two different levels. On the one hand, continuing to highlight the economic and environmental benefits deriving from the use of natural gas in lieu of other fuels with a higher impact on the environment and, therefore, supporting the development of the natural gas distribution networks entrusted to Medea S.p.A. On the other, driving on the commercial penetration of natural gas through the sales activities by the associate Gaxa S.p.A.
In February 2021, Gaxa and the consumer associations operating in Sardinia shared the administrative and commercial requirements necessary to accompany the methane conversion plan of the networks operating on LPG prepared by the local distributor (internal system certification, adaptation of gas equipment, signing of supply contracts). In March 2021, the reasons that had led to the increase in the price of LPG and propane air in the latter months of 2020 were analysed, highlighting the contribution deriving from the increased cost of the raw material from that of the regulatory interventions of ARERA.
In July, additional meetings were organised for the local reference persons of the Consumer Associations operating in Sardinia to present the initiatives and dialogue tools prepared by Gaxa to streamline and make relations with its customers more effective and to show how the energy efficiency drive can help maximise benefits for consumers in switching to natural gas in lieu of other fuels.
A specific meeting with the national representatives of the associations, held in April, saw the unveiling of the Italgas 2021/2027 Strategic Plan, which highlights the implicit advantages for consumers deriving from Italgas’ commitment to digitisation and the development of renewable gas such as biomethane and hydrogen and, in particular, the P2G project was presented, which Italgas intends to pursue in Sestu.
Again with the national levels of the associations, in October 2021, the possibility was discussed to stipulate a specific memorandum of understanding concerning the sale business and dialogue was started regarding its possible contents.
This Memorandum is currently being finalised and should be signed during the first few months of 2022.
In all, the dialogue between Italgas and the associations therefore took place over 6 separate meetings, which involved around 70 operators of the Region of Sardinia and 20 on a national level.
39 Calculated by associating an average emissions coefficient per km with an average distance per site inspection avoided.
Natural gas consumers are already today free to choose their supplier on the free market. Also, with the end of the “protected market”, scheduled to become effective in January 2023, consumers using this service will also have to switch to the free market and choose their own supplier.
To this end, the distribution companies are obliged to grant access to their networks for all those so requesting. More specifically, with Resolution no. 138/04, the Authority issued orders to promote the development of competition in the sale of natural gas and, at the same time, to ensure, in respect of consumer rights, the correct transmission of information between distributors and sellers. This is why, in line with that requested by the Authority and defined in its Sustainability Plan, Italgas has embarked upon a route aimed at strengthening its relations with the sales companies, through important initiatives.
With the objective of improving dialogue between the parties and fostering increasingly constructive debate and exchange, in 2019 Italgas organised a proper training and information programme dedicated entirely to the sales companies. Continuing on from the work of 2019 and 2020, in 2021, the initiative was further confirmed with another 4 meetings, involving more than 900 participants, for more than 140 different Sales Companies serving more than 95% of the Italgas portfolio re-delivery points.
The participants very much appreciated these initiatives, assigning an average score of 4.5 on a scale of 1 to 5 points.
In June 2021, Italgas organised an on-line convention with a view to creating a true partnership to achieve common goals centred around satisfying the customer. It invited all sales companies to take part. This important opportunity, which followed the previous plenary meetings, was an opportunity to explain the strategies, policies and instruments characterising relations with the sellers and to share the Italgas business development plan. It was also a chance to discuss, exchange and share suggestions on opportunities for common growth to be seized in the full spirit of the partnership.
Within the more extensive Italgas digitisation process, since February 2021, the brand new Gas2Be communication portal has been on-line, designed and developed in the Digital Factory.
This innovative platform aims to optimise and support the partnership with the sales companies ever more quickly, with simple, user-friendly processes in a bid to continue the digitisation of Italgas’ processes and improve the services offered.
Thanks to Gas2Be, the sales companies can be accredited on the Italgas Group networks, modify their corporate data with just a few, simple clicks and access information and news available on the homepage, which has a brand new look. The aim is to make Gas2Be the main communication, service and support portal for sales companies, improving and optimising the experience accrued by the sales companies themselves.
As regards the systems in place to collect stakeholder reports and complaints, Italgas has enriched the “Sales Support” function with new sections through which to obtain data and information.
With the new “DIY” section, “Sales Support” provides rapid support to the request for information without the need to create an actual report; it makes available a series of “Self Tools” that immediately provide the data required and more than 160 “FAQs”, through which to find complete information to answer customer questions. In addition, Italgas has further improved the formal submission of a report, making the creation phase simple and user-friendly.
Thanks to “Sales Support”, Italgas can respond quickly and digitally to sellers’ requests, guaranteeing the certification of data supplied and greater efficiency. In 2021, Italgas digitally handled more than 30 thousand reports made by the sales companies through “Sales Support”.
With the aim of listening to the point of view of the sales companies and gathering valuable feedback to continue to improve the partnership, in October 2021, Italgas proposed
the Customer Satisfaction Survey (CSS) for the second year running. Just like in 2020, the on-line survey measured the degree of satisfaction of the Sales Companies through 37
questions divided up into 9 different areas relating to the main businesses and processes; more than 120 people of the sales companies took part.
Starting from the results obtained, Italgas undertakes to organise focus groups for next year, just like in 2021, to listen and implement improvements, with a view to assuring even
greater collaboration, engagement and improvement in the quality of service.
In September 2021, in line with the challenges of digital transformation and sustainability, Italgas launched the initiative for the sales companies called the “Customer Experience Revolution”, with the aim of pursuing the continuous improvement of processes and guaranteeing an optimal customer experience.
The dialogue and discussion initiative, which was already started with the focus groups, consisted of the construction and development, in collaboration with the sales companies,
of three important projects that were completed during the year.
The “GaSmart” and “GaSmart Ti Premia” promotions are also another important initiative, as part of the multi-year business plan with which the Group has set itself the target of continuing to increase the number of active Re-Delivery Points on its network.
Within the scope of the same plan, Italgas also launched a series of initiatives to raise awareness of, promote and spread the benefits of using methane gas, in municipalities that have recently undergone methanisation.
As the top Italian operator in the distribution of gas and the third most important in Europe, the Italgas Group plays an active part in the work of the Italian and international trade
associations, confirming its commitment towards the protection, optimisation and development of the segment in which it operates. Italgas takes part in the work of the associations through the oversight of corporate bodies and the participation in working groups or formal or informal parties established by these associations, which discuss and define the organisation’s position on operative and policy matters.
Some of the most important associations in which Italgas takes part, on a national level, include:
The main topics covered in 2021 in the working groups of the Associations indicated above were:
All these topics have been discussed both through participation in formal consultations by supranational bodies and through the preparation and giving out of position papers on the main policy topics, as well as, finally, meetings with national and European institutional stakeholders as well as through participation in seminars, congresses and webinars.
Italgas actively collaborates with various other contexts:
Anie – Association, of which Seaside is a member, which constitutes the national federation of Electrotechnical and Electronic companies adhering to Confindustria.
It protects and represents the requests of associate members through intense institutional relations and ensures technological and regulatory oversight, promoting initiatives aiming to standardise products and systems developed by the associated businesses.
FSR – Florence School of Regulation, Independent advanced training and research institute on international regulation and policies in the electrical, water and gas sectors, sponsored by the European Commission. Every year, it presents a vast range of courses, seminars and workshops, both open and in exchange for payment, which cover all fields of service regulation. It provides the European Commission with opinions and expertise in view of the adoption of legislative and regulatory proposals. In joining the “supporters” of the FSR, Italgas gained the opportunity of taking part in the network formation and research initiatives, cooperating with the organisation of events and making its own contribution to the debate of a complex matter that evolves continuously and is so vital to the growth and development of the energy segment. Through participation in the Policy.
Advisory Council, moreover, Italgas has the chance to promote its vision of energy policy topics, the challenges that development prospects in the industry raise, also in terms of the evolution of regulation and training projects offered by the FSR to regulators and managers.
MIP – Polytechnic University of Milan Graduate School of Business, University training institute in technical and managerial matters, potential basin of competences also to draw from with a view to identifying possible high-potential candidates. It offers a particularly extensive curriculum of studies, apart from training and masters programmes customised for the needs of the institutions and Public Administration, and enjoys a particularly good international reputation. The direct collaboration with the MIP and the network of associated businesses allows Italgas to promote and develop, with projects focused on business needs, specific initiatives in management, digital transformation and continuous improvement; at the same time, Italgas makes its know-how and distinctive skills, accrued over 180 years of experience, available to the network.
Valore D – Organisation founded to support the appreciation of the role of the woman in the workplace and equal treatment of the genders, as an element by which to foster growth of businesses and the country system. It supplies studies, consultancy, examples of business best practices and social innovation and networking services. Italgas has adhered to the Valore D Manifesto for Women’s Employment, a document created in 2017 under the guidance of G7 Italy, the aim of which is to define precise tools to promote concrete actions to optimise and include diversity in all business processes.
CCE – International think tank operative in various sectors, including energy. An open door on the thoughts of European peers and senior functionaries of state administrations and the European Commission.