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White Paper: Outage Communications

Overhauling utility systems, call centres and communication channels to meet customer expectations.

Executive Summary:

With the increase in the frequency and duration of outages caused by extreme weather events across North America, customers are expecting utilities to keep them continually updated on the status of outages; especially the estimated restoration time. In fact, customers are requiring utilities to keep them informed via two-way communications using the Interactive Voice Recognition (IVR), call centre, social media, utility websites and modern communications devices (e.g. tablets, smartphones) and applications (apps).

In order to fully understand the impact on utilities as a result of customer expectations for timely and accurate information on outages, Kaihen commissioned an Outage Communications Benchmarking Study which included utilities from the United States, Ontario and British Columbia. The main purpose of the study was to gain insight into best practices for outage communications in three areas:

1. Outage Communications Systems
2. Call Centres
3. Outage Communications Channels

The results of the benchmark also provided valuable feedback to utilities, which participated in the study, on gaps in existing programs and changes that need to be implemented to meet customer expectations.

There were many best practices discovered by the benchmark and successfully implemented by utilities in the three areas. The following is a sample of best practices discussed in this document:

Utilities must be prepared to implement organizational changes in order to successfully transform outage communications programs. A key lesson learned and emphasized by many utilities is the creation of a cross functional team with representation from corporate communications, customer service, information technology, operations, metering and regulatory affairs for outage communications initiatives.

Utilities also noted the importance of measuring the success of outage communications programs in order to help channel programs in the right direction and to continuously improve them. Success measurements are discussed in this document.

While an optimal outage communications program may require a number of years to achieve, utilities can still realize immediate cost savings and improved customer satisfaction by implementing changes gradually over time. Utilities can also benefit by observing the many lessons learned from other utilities which have effectively overhauled their outage communications programs. The following provides lessons learned for ensuring a successful implementation:

Read the entire white paper here.

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