Winter is here, and for utility companies in northern locations that means snowstorms, icy roads, freezing temperatures, and high winds … all of which translate to a higher risk of service outages.
When this happens, you can be sure that customers will want to report their outages to your utility and receive communication from your organization on when their service might be back up and running.
That is why proactive communication is crucial for today’s utilities.
Communication can help your utility get ahead of the “higher than usual call volumes” to improve the customer experience by providing real time updates before, during and after the outage.
This will help your customers view you as a reliable and trustworthy provider. And it will help keep calls and emails down so that your team can focus on getting the system fixed.
If you have an existing communication strategy, you may already have systems in place to reach out to customers via email but there’s always a chance the email will get junked, trashed or buried. Luckily advances in technology have now made it even easier to send updates to your customer.
Using a utility customer portal, you can send notifications and alerts directly to your customer’s preferred device. This means they will receive real-time updates directly to their favourite device’s home screen. With a quick click, they can access their utility portal and get even more information on the latest outage.
The result? You can build a customer engagement strategy that keeps customers in the loop and provide them with a highly-personalized experience, which will enhance their relationship with your brand.
Remember, you don’t have to wait for the service to go out to give an update. If you know a service area has high winds or hail heading their way, you can send out a proactive message letting customers know to be prepared for potential outages. This will give them a chance to prepare for their utilities being down before it becomes too difficult.
If the utility does cut out, you can send updates letting them know the outage has occurred along with estimated time for when the service will be up. You can even direct them to necessary steps to take or tips that will keep them and their families safe. Once the service is back up, you can give them direction for reporting additional issues or connect them to frequently asked questions that can get their service up and running again, if additional steps are needed, such as a reset.
All these utility features of outage notifications result in a far greater customer experience, higher customer satisfaction, and ensures your utility is seen as a reliable provider.
This is especially true when you implement these three techniques as part of your strategy utility’s communication strategy:
- Accurate and Consistent Communication
Customers want to know when their power will be restored, why the outage occurred and the area it is affecting. Simple real-time messages sent straight to your customers will show that your organization is proactive and working in their best interest. But, be sure the notifications provide detailed and accurate information and are sent in a timely manner, otherwise this attempt to connect with your customers could leave them with even more questions and uncertainty.
- Customers Control
There are so many ways to reach out to customers these days that it can be hard to pick the right form of communication, while at the same time also avoiding overwhelming your customer by reaching out on every channel. The good news is that this can be resolved by putting control into your customer’s hands.
Establishing outage notifications on multiple channels and then providing customers with the option to decide how and when they receive alerts will not only empower utility customers but also take the weight of expectation off of the provider’s shoulders.
Customers will be able to decide the preferred channel that they want to receive alerts on, as well as select the times of the day that they don’t want to be notified. It’s also important to occasionally remind your customers of their preferences, as they may forget what they have set.
- Open a Two-Way Dialogue
While the goal is to reduce what could be an overwhelming number of communication from customer to your team, you still need to let your customer feel heard. That is why utility providers should give their customers the opportunity to report power outages to their operations team.
By providing clear direction on how to do this through your customer portal, you can help your customers stay in control of, and connected, with their utilities. And it can help speed up the process of resolving power outages, allowing utility providers to see who exactly is experiencing issues and the nature of their problems.
Afterall, communication is key, and it’s not just power outages where digital communication is important either. Customer portals can be used to simplify eBilling, improve utility customer engagement, and send utility usage analytics that help your customer save money or cut down their carbon footprint.
These are all communication features that significantly improve your utility’s customer experience.
Interested in learning more about how a digital communication strategy is essential for your utility, and how the SilverBlaze Customer Portal for Utilities can help? Contact us today.