Our birthday Standards Heroes have been nominated by their peers to represent all our contributors - individuals we consider to be the real heroes of standards, in Australia and internationally. We thank those who contribute their knowledge and expertise, service, and time to Standards Australia for the benefit of the Australian community.
Courtney Markham sits on the CS-311 Vulnerable Consumers committee supporting and contributing her expertise to the energy sector
How did you become involved in standards development?
I have been working in a diverse range of roles in the energy sector for just over nine years. I started my career taking inbound calls from customers, and providing payment plans and hardship assistance to those experiencing payment difficulty. Since then, I have worked on the compliance and regulatory affairs side of a big cultural shift in the way customers facing vulnerability are engaged. There continues to be significant change in the sector, particularly in the areas of affordability and customer vulnerability.
I joined the Standards Australia committee CS-311 Vulnerable Consumers after being nominated by the Australian Energy Council membership. The Standards process was a completely different experience to the consultations I had worked on previously, as the content of this Standard was determined by better practice approaches taken by the industries that will eventually be asked to adopt the standard.
What role have standards played in your career?
The role of standards in my career has been largely invisible, but they have certainly been there. Standards can be the unacknowledged backbone of many business practices, translated into policies and procedures that can be followed by frontline workers. I hadn’t considered how many standards I’ve met this way until I started working on CS-311 Vulnerable Consumers.
What is a project you’ve been particularly proud to have helped deliver?
I was involved in the development of the Essential Services Commission’s (ESC) Payment Difficulties Framework for Victoria, as an external stakeholder. The development of the framework was iterative, and I relied on my own experience in directly speaking to customers experiencing payment difficulties in my early career as well as the feedback of colleagues in responding to the ESC’s proposals. The result was a framework that required retailers to make changes both to their systems, and their ways of thinking about interacting with customers.
The resulting framework offers customers proactive assistance from their energy provider, while still giving them agency to choose what assistance is best for them. It has also created a consistent set of assistance offerings across the sector, which means that a customer can access the same help even if they decide to change provider. I think this project was an important first step taken toward a more customer centric regulatory approach and am pleased to have been part of its development.
Outside of standards development, what have been some highlights of your career?
I have been actively involved in ongoing policy development for customers experiencing payment difficulties, vulnerability and hardship, and family domestic violence, that are more reflective of community expectations. These provide both an expectation and safeguard for our most at-risk community members. Much like standards, when well designed and well implemented most customers don’t realise they’re interacting with a support framework established through regulation.
What do you think the future of standardisation looks like?
Standards attempt to improve many aspects of industry and can act as a set of expectations against which the performance of industry can be measured, that does not rely on financial value measures. The setting I work in, and my experience through participating in standards development, highlights the many social challenges and ethical dilemmas raised in a world quickly adopting technologies. I think standards in future will play an important role in moderating these ethical dilemmas.
Is there anything you’d like to say or mention about Standards Australia’s centenary year?
This year marks 100 years of Standards Australia providing a platform for various industries to proactively reflect on better practice approaches and bring back ideas from colleagues around the world. These have resulted in enhancement of local practices, across a wide range of issues.
I think there is strength in the approach taken by Standards Australia. In development, relying on the collective knowledge of field experts also ensures that the resulting standard can be practically employed – whether the standard is of a technical, measurable nature, or issues such as inclusivity.