As we move from spring storm season into summer storm season, now is a good time to review how your outage communications process is serving your customers’ needs. A significant segment of your customers still rely on the telephone as a means to report an outage and, at some later point, to check on the status of that outage. So making sure that this contact channel is functioning properly is essential for two reasons. First, you want the customer’s experience to be as low on the stress meter as possible while they’re dealing with such a stressful situation. And second, you want to be able to handle the increase in call volume in the most efficient way. Whether that be with a good outage-reporting feature through your interactive voice response system (IVR), with an outsourced solution for large call volumes, or with your own customer service reps.
One of the things I suggest to our members is that they call into their IVR from home, away from the bias of being at the utility. Listen to what your customers are hearing. Try to report an outage in the system. (Of course, don’t complete the transaction and produce an outage order in your system.) See how easy (or hard) it is to report an outage. You may be surprised! For more information on how to make the Report an Outage option on your IVR a user-friendly feature, check out our 2010 Fantasy Utility IVR: Focus on Self-Service. In this report, you can listen to an audio clip of a best-practice example of the Report an Outage feature.
Another tactic that can help mitigate the stress for your customers is to use proactive outage status notification calls. Some IVR systems allow customers to report their outage via self-service and then request a call back when service is restored. This is a great tool to improve the customer experience. It allows the customer to decide (1) whether they want a call back and (2) how late they’re willing to accept that call back. Personally, I think it can be rather annoying to get an automated call at 3:00 a.m. telling me my power is back on.
On another note, our next Contact Center Leaders Group Call will be held Thursday, August 9, at noon MDT. Check our Upcoming Events page for details and to register.