T&D World Magazine

Hydro Ottawa Wins Outage Communications Award

Chartwell Inc. has selected Hydro Ottawa to receive the 2010 Best Practices Award in Outage Communications for new initiatives the utility launched last year to provide customers with more timely and accurate information during power outages. Chartwell presented the award at its recent Outage Communications Summit in Nashville.

Hydro Ottawa’s project involved two phases:

  • The implementation of an interactive voice response (IVR) system to field incoming customer calls during a power outage and improve customer messaging.
  • Continuous improvements to an internal outage alerts system to ensure that stakeholders receive up-to-date information promptly.

Hydro Ottawa partnered with an industry vendor to develop an intelligent IVR application that provides customers with an efficient and effective way to report an outage and/or get information about an existing outage. The Power Outage line allows customers to listen to a message that provides information about the location of outages as they occur and ongoing updates, such as the cause and expected time of restoration. Customers also can receive assistance with creating an outage report for their affected location through an automated process. After the customer verifies the information, an outage report is created and uploaded directly to the utility’s outage management system.

The company’s outage alerts program is web-based and provides emails or text messages to employees when outages occur. City officials, key accounts and the media receive alerts when outages affect more than 500 customers. The system has proven to be an effective way to distribute continuously updated information across the organization, whether it is the initial alert or subsequent updates with additional information or notification that all power is restored.

The outage communications project is part of Hydro Ottawa’s comprehensive and integrated customer service strategy that focuses on harnessing technology to improve efficiency and to deliver the added value that improves customer service,

Chartwell created the Best Practices in Outage Communications Award in 2008 to honor results-oriented initiatives aimed at improving customer contact and information delivery during outages, both planned and unplanned. Progressive utilities continually develop strategies and programs that deliver this information as quickly as possible. Previous winners are BC Hydro and Public Service of New Hampshire. Award entries were judged by Chartwell researchers who are subject matter experts in the areas under consideration.

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