When there is a utility outage, it’s up to the responsible provider to restore power, water or gas as soon as possible. If there is an effective outage management system in place and clear lines of communication with members, the loss of service can be kept to a minimum. Many utilities, however, lack optimal tools for this purpose.

How long do utility outages last for?

In 2018, the Energy Information Administration presented data on the average public utility member’s experience of power outages. Counting major events, customers lost an average of 138 minutes of power in a year, losing service 1.3 times. Those figures are 112 minutes and one interruption when not counting major events.

The current state of utility downtime varies across municipalities and regions. The EIA pointed out that the average outage duration was a high of 6 hours in West Virginia and a low of 27 minutes in Nebraska.

What options do members have for reporting utility outages?

Having strong lines of communication in outages is valuable for both public safety and utility customer experience. This is why it is worrisome that many utilities are using outdated systems. For example, companies that rely exclusively on call centers to receive and process members’ calls may find themselves overwhelmed in the case of a large event.

Adding an Interactive Voice Response solution is one way to update this process. With automated outage-reporting features, members can report an outage – and receive information on previously known issues that might affect them based on where they are calling from. Handling this process without engaging service personnel gives these employees more time to work on value-adding work resolving the outage behind the scenes.

When a utility provider uses an IVR connected to an outage management system, callers’ locational information can help craft a highly detailed outage map. With this data collected and logged, office personnel can guide field teams to the sites of newly detected outages for a quick resolution.

How can utilities keep their customers more aware of outages and restorations?

One of the best ways to avoid the excessive system strain of outage calls is to give residents as much information as possible as to the status of the grid, so they are not taken by surprise by fluctuations in their service.

A modern IVR that is part of a complete outage management system can give customers notices in advance of planned outages, ensuring that these alerts reach all affected members and keeping them from calling in to report these issues.

Notifying customers when service comes back, either by phone, text or email, is another valuable feature of a modern IVR. Keeping up a flow of information is a valuable move from a customer perspective, with members remaining in the loop about the status of their service.

In an era fraught with aging utility infrastructure and high risk of failures and outages, having an effective way to communicate with customers about these issues is a hallmark of a utility provider that is ahead of the curve. Check out DataVoice success stories to learn how outage management systems have helped organizations thrive.

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