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April 10, 2018

Caterpillars, Squirrels, and Jellyfish. Oh My!

Customers look to their utility companies to keep them safe, comfortable, and well-informed. Experiencing a power outage can not only cause inconvenience, but it can also create tension in the utility-customer relationship. Although it is often the case that outages occur at no fault of the utility, responsibility still falls upon the utility to provide quick and accurate information regarding outage occurrence, cause, and estimated time of restoration.

Customers have come to expect power outages during a storm, but does their empathy expand to cover outages caused by more uncommon culprits? Are customers even aware these culprits are at work? In 2013, a jellyfish invasion brought down a massive reactor in Sweden.¹ In 2015, caterpillar swarms knocked out the power for area residents in Texas.² Monkeys in Kenya, pigeons in Japan, and weasels in Switzerland have all taken turns wreaking havoc on transformers and power cables.³ More commonly in the U.S., birds and small rodents are the troublemakers, often causing more than their fair-share of damage.

While utility companies can take practical steps to deter animal interference, like plastic coverings and rotating caps, many outages are still inevitable. So what’s next? How do utilities keep customers happy when outside elements are causing blackouts? While the answer to this question may seem obvious, careful execution is critical. Customers must be kept informed. More specifically, customers must be kept informed through convenient, expedient, and accurate means.

Utilities can partner with KUBRA, the leading customer experience solutions provider, to deliver timely information directly to a customer’s mobile or desktop device. KUBRA offers the leading Notifi alerts and preference managements system as well as cutting-edge Storm Center outage maps—ensuring customers can be kept in-the-know about power outages. Storm Center even provides an optional display feature that can show customers what (be it animal, weather, downed tree, etc.) caused their outage. Utilities should also encourage their crews to log relevant “outage cause” information in their OMS systems, this way customers are supplied with as much detail as possible and potential frustrations are limited.

Whether they are brought on by a traffic accident, hurricane, or squirrel—outages happen. Making sure your customers know why they do, what they impact, and when they will be resolved makes all the difference. Utilities can increase transparency and customer trust by being proactive and clear when accidents happen. To learn more about how to enrich customer satisfaction when Mother Nature strikes, visit http://kubra.com/.

¹ National Geographic. “Jellyfish Invasion Shuts Down Nuclear Reactor.” 2013.

² ABC. “Caterpillars Causing Area Power Outages.” 2015.

³ Popular Mechanics. “7 Animals That Caused Power Outages.” 2016.

4 Business Insider. “Squirrels Have Probably Caused Way More Power Outages Than Cyber-Criminals.” 2016.