Utilities that prioritize outage management top customer service rankings

Utilities who make outage and restoration management a top priority have higher customer satisfaction, according to a survey of more than 18,000 utility employees conducted by Bridge Energy Group.

Bridge will be sharing and discussing more of the results of this survey at DistribuTECH in San Antonio, Texas from January 28-30 while exhibiting at booth #3548.

When Bridge compared the survey responses to J.D. Power 2013 Electric Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study conducted in July 2013, the results showed that all utilities that reported outage restoration and management as a top priority had a JD Power customer satisfaction rating of above average within their segment.

"Achieving top performance and customer satisfaction requires effective end-to-end business operations and technology integration," said Forrest Small, VP of grid optimization at Bridge Energy Group. "Leading utilities using highly integrated outage management systems that include mobile platforms for field communications, asset management systems and smart meter outage messaging report greater success in efficient outage diagnosis and restoration."

Based on the survey results, two areas for improvement appear to be faster and more accurate damage assessment and better Estimated Times to Restoration (ETRs). Both areas are most valuable during storm restoration for managing stakeholder expectations and restoration costs.

Although only 2 percent of utility respondents were dissatisfied with the quality of ETRs reported to customers, 40 percent of satisfied utilities had below average customer satisfaction ratings according to JD Power — indicating a gap between utility perception and customer reality.

"The gap between perception and reality calls for true performance based measurement that is broadly shared," concluded Dave O'Brien, director of regulatory strategy and compliance at bridge. "While the data indicates high satisfaction with ETRs, customers and regulators can have a different view. In depth performance metrics are the means to foster common understanding."

Despite ORM leadership claims, only 30 percent of respondents were very satisfied in the way their current OMS handles outage messaging from smart meters. Perhaps making up for the deficit, two-thirds of respondents report using electronic platforms for damage assessment, with one-third using a tablet or smart phone platform. Consistent with 2012 survey results, utilities continue to report the integration of systems as one of the greatest concerns in ORM (50 percent), followed by 40 percent indicating the availability of skilled staff as a roadblock to better outage and restoration management results.

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