There is no better test of a utility’s relationship with its customers than an epic outage.
April 27, 2011, was the worst day for tornadoes in U.S. history. Transmission towers all across the Southeast and as far north as New York State were “twisted like bow ties,” according to a National Weather Service meteorologist. Hundreds were killed, and millions were left without power, some for weeks.
From Katrina to Sandy, consumers have heard about or lived through epic storms and seen the complete devastation of power systems.
Unfortunately, consumers have very unrealistic expectations about power reinstatement. In our Utility Pulse™ ’13 study, we asked, “How long is it acceptable to be out of power after a severe weather event such as a hurricane or an ice storm?” Eighty percent said they wanted their power back in less than 24 hours.
While it’s usually impossible to meet this demand, proactive communication (particularly if provided in the format customers prefer), can help alleviate some of the irritation. When asked how they would like to get word from their utilities about outage response plans, consumers gave the following preferences:
- 52 percent would like a phone call or voice mail
- 40.3 percent want an email
- 33.5 percent prefer a text (assuming they can charge their phones)
- 24.4 percent would look on the utility’s Web page
- 12.5 percent want a message through the utility’s smartphone app
- 10.3 percent prefer a Facebook message or post
- 5.5 percent want a Twitter message
- 4.2 percent have other preferences
Realistically, many choices above are often unavailable after major storms. Nonetheless, customers plainly expect to get the word on how the recovery is going in their area. Even seeing utility workers on the scene isn’t enough.
When customers see their utility company step up in the face of adversity, they appreciate it. But they appreciate it more when – somehow – they get the latest news from the power company.