As Hurricane Matthew tracked up the East Coast, West utility employees narrowly escaped Florida before the storm’s impact was felt. In the midst of the coastal devastation, it was impossible to ignore the amount of behind-the-scenes 24×7 work that our utility partners put into helping areas maintain and restore power.
When it comes to service restoration, a focus on critical services is always priority number one. These are West’s top three observations made before, during and after the storm.
1. You can never be too prepared to communicate.
As weather patterns change and severe weather increases every year, it’s essential to prepare for everything. Moving forward, the National Climate Assessment team predicts stronger category hurricanes, winter storms, tornadoes, hail, damaging thunderstorm winds and flooding.[i] Unsurprisingly, this trend is causing considerable financial losses for communities at large.
Wayne LeValley from Duke Energy highlights the impact a strong communications partnership can have in overcoming these challenges:
“I’ve worked in some form of customer service for over 35 years and I appreciate ‘excellent’ customer service. It was very comforting to have West there during Matthew to guide and direct me as a novice. I also appreciated West’s help walking me through the application so I could initiate a campaign myself. I was told West would take care of me and they absolutely did.”
With both community and employee livelihoods on the line, utilities must avoid trying to implement sophisticated communication strategies at the last minute. Negative customer experiences in a time of crisis exponentially exacerbates the situation and can decrease customer loyalty, which affects the success utilities have when they apply for rate cases in the future.
A solid technological infrastructure supported by strategy and the ongoing consultation of an experienced communications partner is key to weathering any storm. Make sure your severe weather communications are up to par with this “storm-kit.”
2. There is no such thing as over-communication.
The news never reports that XYZ Utilities annoyed customers with timely and relevant communications. Negative press stems from a lack of urgent, accurate information delivered to customers in easily digestible ways. A public service message in the newspaper or on TV is not enough. When a storm is looming, customers want to be able to interact with their utility providers whenever, wherever and however they choose.
A multi-channel approach is to the only way to completely meet the needs of customers with wide-ranging functional and emotional needs.
Layering in proactive messages, like where customers can go for shelter, food and water, helps to create the connected experience utility customers crave. Other humanity support efforts like providing phone numbers for crisis hotlines or other emergency services also makes a big difference during times of distress.
3. Timeliness and accuracy are key.
Providing pre-storm messages helps manage customer expectations, allowing adequate preparation time and making them feel genuinely cared for. Hitting the emotional quotient of CX is just as important as the functional.
Share realistic estimated times of restoration (ETR) to allow customers to effectively manage time and determine best courses of action. Provide humanized communication and highlight the hard work going into restoration. Take the time to fine-tune your messaging — it can make a considerable difference in customers’ perceptions of your brand.
Utilities need to receive customer outage information quickly while delivering timely, reliable notifications to customers. But finding a comprehensive communications solution that fits for your organization’s unique needs can be a challenge.
To start taking your CX to the next level, call West Utilities at 614.442.1215, option #2 or email firstname.lastname@example.org