July 31, 2020

Experience Better Outages: How to Make the Most of a Service Disruption

As a utility, you have the unfortunate reality of offering a service that most people take for granted. Flipping on lights, turning on taps, and charging devices are all things we rely on, but also do without thinking. When you’re able to deliver uninterrupted service 24/7, you probably don’t hear from your customers much at all. It’s a totally different story though when the power goes out or the water is shut off. Suddenly you’re flooded with calls, emails, and even Tweets demanding to know why there’s a service disruption. 

Here are some things you can do to prepare your utility and your customers so you can both experience better outages when they happen. 

Equip Yourself For Success 

All the innovative communication tools available to us today have had a definite impact on customer expectations. Simply put, they expect more from you. By implementing an alerts and preference management system like Notifi, you can keep customers informed during outages through SMS text, email, mobile apps, and IVR. Outage maps, like Storm Center, are another great tool, giving your customers the ability to conveniently report and check the status of outages from mobile phones, desktop computers, and tablets. 

Once you have your tools in place, take the time to educate your customers so that they know what’s available, making sure to highlight any self-service options. Consider a multi-faceted marketing campaign including social media, web banners, email campaigns, and bill inserts and onserts to get the message out. If you build it, tell them you’ve built, they will come…use your tools.

Proactive Communication Is Key

There was a time when your customers were experiencing a service interruption that they had to reach out to you by phone to find out what was happening. Waiting for your customers to come to you doesn’t cut it anymore. In fact, a JD Power study on customer satisfaction with electric utilities reported that proactive communication is closely tied to customer satisfaction. When you alert customers to power outages and inform them of estimated restoration times, customer satisfaction increases. Letting customers know you’re aware of the problem and that you’re taking action puts their minds at ease and they will appreciate that you’re making an effort to keep them in the loop. 

Accuracy Is Everything

We’ve established that communication is important for utilities to keep customers informed of outages and service disruptions. But, firing off rough estimates isn’t what your customers are looking for–they expect this information to be accurate. According to Chartwell, the estimated time of restoration (ETR) is the most valued information during outages. Having a well-managed and integrated outage management system helps you determine where outages are, the cause of the problem, and crew status. This information can be quickly disseminated through your outage notification platform, ensuring that your customers receive the most up-to-date information. Utilities should also look for an outage map with the capability to view historical data. Storm Center’s “Map History” tool allows utilities to access up to five years of historical data for future analysis. This can help utilities review restoration data at specific times, such as the peak of a storm, which can help improve the accuracy of ETRs in the future.

Make Outages a Way for Your Utility to Shine

There’s no point in sugar coating this, outages are a pain for your customers. You can lessen the inconvenience by having effective tools in place that help you communicate quickly and easily with your customers. This goes a long way in minimizing the impact outages have on customer satisfaction. When you’re able to send timely, accurate information in your customers’ channel of choice, you’re able to navigate outages without it impacting customer experience.

Learn more about how implementing KUBRA’s customer communications tools improved customer service ratings at an East Coast utility in this case study.