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Are Your Customers Informed?

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Duke Energy crews are still working hard to restore power across the Carolinas after Hurricane Isaias caused widespread outages on Tuesday. Customers who have signed up for alerts via text or email are notified about outages and receive status updates with estimated restoration times.  Automated systems like these provide utility customers with helpful information and relieves the volume of calls received by customer service representatives.  Some the countries largest utility companies are responding to outages caused by Hurricane Isaias and here’s how they keep customers informed during the restoration process.  Like many other utilities, Florida Power & Light has an online outage tracker map.  The goal is always to restore power as quickly as possible. For obvious reasons, COVID is slowing that process down a bit.  For example, normally a restoration diagnostic is completed and customers are informed how long before the power will be back.  But to remain safe and follow social distancing, smaller crews must be deployed.  Also, replacing larger equipment takes longer to repair and requires specialized crews.  The company does provide a mobile app that allows customers to report outages, track restoration and manage energy use.  

ConEd experienced a massive power outage in the upper part of Manhattan early this Friday but by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s 10 a.m. briefing all customers in that area had their power restored. However, the vast majority of customers are expected to be restored by end of day Sun, Aug 9.  Frequent news releases also provide information on outages, disruptions to service and restoration times. Outage status can be found on their website or updates can be texted to a customer's mobile device.

When these systems are working correctly fewer calls to CSR's are required.  And while the information may not completely remove concerns, it does lower agitation about how long the outage will last.  When these services are not up to par, your utility could be facing complaints like those in New Jersey after the same tropical storm hit the area.   Customers said the company's outage map was inconsistent and incorrect throughout the storm. Later, the majority of the customers did not receive restoration estimates and those that did saw those times pass without update. Some, even received phone calls, texts and emails telling them their power had been restored when it had not.  One customer claims to have called to report the misinformation and when they reached a customer service representative they were told there were 500 homes without power in their area but the map showed 9,000.   Granted, after a major event, customers should expect restoration times to be days instead of hours. But frustration mounts when the automated systems are inaccurate.  Customers can quickly lose faith in them and go back to calling CRS’s for information. Automated systems can save time and man hours when properly utilized but some cases require live interaction.  How well are your customer service representatives responding to the frustration and confusion of ratepayers?  During COVID?  After Tropical Storm Isaias?  

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