May 21, 2013
SMECO Launches New Online Outage Reporting Feature
On April 15, Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative (SMECO) added a new outage reporting feature to its website. Developed by iFactor, the feature is formatted to work on both desktop and mobile devices and allows customers to enter their location, check current outage status, and report new outages. Providing a way to report outages online allows SMECO to reduce calls to its contact center, receive information more quickly, and improve customer satisfaction.
“From previous experience with major storms, we knew that customers use the online outage map to check the number of people without power, so we knew an online reporting feature would be popular. Now that the number of smart phones and tablets has skyrocketed, we expect this feature to be a key method for reporting an outage – especially because it’s so easy to use,” said Joe Trentacosta, SMECO’s Senior Vice President and CIO. “Two days after we deployed the outage reporting feature, 151 customers used the website to report their outages – before we even announced the enhancement!”
The new outage reporting form minimizes the amount of information required to report an outage, simplifying the process while retaining a method for verifying all reports. After entering a zip code and an account number or phone number, the customer is asked to verify the address of the outage location. Entering a phone number may bring up a list of addresses, in which case the customer needs to select the correct address from the list.
As shown in the sample screenshot below, if an outage is already reported for a location, the customer is immediately given information on the outage along with a link to the location on SMECO’s outage map and an estimated restoration time.
If an outage has not yet been reported, the customer is asked whether the outage is partial or total (“Are all lights out?”), and is given the option to provide a call back number to verify power restoration. The new outage report is delivered directly to the SMECO outage management system so that dispatchers can take action on the problem.
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