Your Utility Outage Communications Plan: Time to Take a Second Look?

For those of you responsible for utility outage communications, I ask you this: how confident are you in your ability to communicate with customers should such a crisis occur?

With a growing body of evidence suggesting that storms will worsen – and in light of the recent devastation caused by hurricane Sandy – the time is ripe to re-evaluate your outage communications plan.

And if you’re still in doubt, one only needs to point to the fall-out from Sandy when utility companies such as Long Island Power Authority were not prepared. So don’t be left in the dark or worse yet, subpoenaed or lose your job by not having a good emergency plan.

The good news today is that communications technology is rapidly advancing, which gives you new options for communicating with customers quickly and effectively in the event of a disaster.

According to JD Powers, customers prefer to be proactively contacted during outages with updates and information as they become available.  Sharing these updates by a just in time method, such as social media, has been shown to increase customer satisfaction by as much as 89 points.

The following are a few strategies for mitigating risk and keeping your customers happy should an outage occur:

  • Customers who were communicated with during an outage via social media expressed a higher satisfaction with their utility company.  For more details check out this whitepaper  “Let’s Get Social: Best Practices in Utility Outage Communications.”
  • Automate the processes to ensure all actions, steps and follow-up are timely and measurable.  Hold all the business units accountable.
  • Integrate self-serve options on your IVR, initiate callbacks, use mobile smart devices to include callback, Web chat, self-service, SMS text and include other tools such as Twitter, Facebook, etc.  Pictures are worth a thousand words and make sure they are powerful statements.
  • Provide the best estimate you can of when power will be restored – honesty is always the best policy.  Including outage maps is a plus!
  • Have a good solid plan in place identifying goals and strategies – make sure the plan has been tested with all key departments.

Times are changing and the expectations of utility customers are on the rise. So don’t delay. Take a look at the many new communications technologies at your disposal today that could very well avert disaster tomorrow.

Until next time, make a difference,

Mechele