Connected lights symbolize business communications.

When utility service goes down, it's up to your team to get things running again as quickly as possible. The key to making this process as smooth and effective as possible, thereby creating a better customer experience, is to take out any possible obstacles slowing down your outage response.

One of the most pressing problems when you're trying to restore service is a lack of effective communication. If your team members can't contact one another instantly and pass clear, accurate and up-to-date information back and forth, your outage responses will automatically slow down.

So what can you do to bridge the communication gap? Fortunately, there is a technology-based solution to the age-old issue of ineffective data sharing. When you have a modern outage management system (OMS) in place, you'll find it immediately easier to coordinate every member of your crew, in the office and in the field.

Systems seeking improvement: Communications without an OMS

Think about the traditional ways to exchange information between utility employees during a high-pressure outage situation. Phone calls or two-way radio broadcasts are standard contact methods, but they come with drawbacks.

Poor reception could make messages unclear, and it's difficult to share exact data when the sole mode of contact is by audio. Trying to communicate the exact location of a suspected infrastructure failure can be hard to accomplish over a walkie-talkie, as can providing real-time condition information about assets.

Real-time access to data is an important ingredient in resolving any crisis, as your team can better coordinate efforts when everyone is working from the same set of figures and has a shared understanding of the situation. Considering the limitations of phone calls and radio transmissions, it's easy to see why a new communication method is necessary.

Sharing more info: How an OMS helps communications

An up-to-date OMS changes the way utility employees share information, bringing real-time data to everyone on the team and adding extra precision to service restoration. Since your customers are eager for you to make repairs as quickly as possible, these efficiency gains can have a real impact on satisfaction.

One of the most important features from a data and communication perspective is geographic information system (GIS) integration. When employees are able to plot potential trouble sites on a map, field crews know immediately where they are going and what they can expect to find there, cutting down on the potential for miscommunication and shortening the service restoration timeline.

The simple fact that everyone is working from the same information saves time and improves the accuracy of a response. When an update is made, whether by an employee or through an automated connection to another digital system, everyone sees the change. There is less need to make a call, and employees can stay focused on the task at hand — resolving the outage.

Connecting office and field: Benefiting linemen through OMS access

Having access to data in the field is an advantage in more ways than one. When linemen are able to use the OMS through their smart devices, they gain new capabilities that can streamline and transform their workflows for the better.

One of the standbys of field work without easy data communication is exploratory activity, testing assets to see where a potential issue might be. With a constant stream of accurate real-time data, facilitated by the team back in the office, crews can get right to work performing repairs, with less wasted time.

Shortening the time to outage resolution can have an extra advantage for field crews where safety is concerned. After all, if workers spend less time on exploratory activities and can get directly to work, they don't run the risks that come with performing extra work, which can be especially critical during inclement weather.

Making smooth workflows possible: Digital tickets and work orders

One potentially underrated part of utility communications, and one that can benefit from OMS access, is the process of opening and closing tickets and work orders. Under a conventional system, linemen perform these activities back in the office after completing work. With an OMS accessible from the field, they can log their progress from anywhere — and in real time.

Closing out a ticket from the truck not only saves an extra trip, it helps everyone else in the organization see the results immediately. This can act as a sign that it's time for office personnel to follow up, sending pings to the affected assets to see if they are truly back to full capacity.

Putting the whole team on the same page

Installing a new OMS has benefits beyond internal communication and information sharing, ranging from simplified customer service to better data analysis. These solutions can act as a central pillar of a utility's operations, during outages or day-to-day operations alike.

Read DataVoice success stories to see how organizations have already changed their workflows for the better.

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