Blog > How Utilities Can Increase Customer Satisfaction Through Faster Outage Response Times
utility workers restoring power
Fleet Management, Maintenance, Routing

How Utilities Can Increase Customer Satisfaction Through Faster Outage Response Times

February 3, 2020

The reality of being a utility provider is that, at some point, outages are bound to happen—typically through no fault of your company. The number of unexpected outages caused by weather, natural disasters, road conditions, and fallen trees far surpass scheduled outages due to repairs and maintenance. And with climate change producing more severe and frequent natural disasters, unexpected utility outages due to storms, fires, floods, and droughts have doubled since 2003—and they’re expected to continue rising.  

While you have less control over preventing unplanned outages, you do have power over how quickly and efficiently your company can respond to them. Because consistently delivering on your Service Level Agreements (SLAs) is key to customer satisfaction, it’s crucial to quickly restore service to keep customers happy and safe

Here are three ways you can improve your response time to emergency or unplanned outages. 

Quickly dispatch drivers with real-time GPS 

Time is of the essence when you want to provide quality customer service during outages. 

Unplanned outages not only inconvenience customers but can also pose hazardous risks to their health. The longer an outage lasts, the higher the risk to customer safety—lengthy power outages can prevent access to safe drinking water, medical equipment, and emergency services, and downed electrical lines can spark fires. By quickly responding to emergency outages, you improve customer satisfaction by rapidly restoring your service to ensure their safety. But to quickly dispatch your technicians to restore unplanned outages, you need to have continuous visibility into the live locations of all your vehicles. 

Telematics devices that have a real-time GPS tracker allow you to collect live location data for all your vehicles. If an alert for an unexpected outage comes in, your dispatchers can use this real-time GPS data to easily see which equipped vehicle is closest to the outage and immediately dispatch the driver to restore service. 

Some telematics solutions, like Samsara, provide additional real-time insights into traffic and weather data. Dispatchers can see live traffic and weather information overlaid on a map view of your vehicles’ locations. Dispatchers can use this information to more efficiently route drivers to avoid road congestion or snowy and icy roads so they can get to service outages faster. If your telematics solution is equipped with a driver-facing app, like the Samsara Driver App, drivers can receive their updated routes directly to their smartphone, so there’s no need for dispatchers to waste time with manual phone calls.

In an industry where customer satisfaction is highly reliant on response time, real-time GPS tracking significantly reduces the time it takes to restore service to keep your customers safe and satisfied.

Learn more about Samsara

Maintain fleet health through streamlined preventative maintenance

In the utility industry, quality customer service is essential to retaining and attracting new business. In fact, nearly 78% of customers will not give their business to a company with bad customer service reviews. And since bad reviews spread faster than good reviews, they can especially harm your ability to attract new customers. 

The good news? 

Utility customer service relies heavily on speed—how quickly you can get to an outage and restore service. You can improve how efficiently you respond to outages by maintaining the health of your vehicles.

If your vehicles are always stuck in the shop or consistently breaking down en route, it’s very difficult to quickly dispatch them when emergency outages strike. By regularly and accurately maintaining your vehicles, you can create a healthy, ready-to-go fleet that is always prepared to be dispatched in an emergency outage situation. Preventative maintenance can help you worry less about vehicles breaking down en route to outages, which can further delay repairing downed utilities. Plus, you can feel more confident about dispatching any vehicle from your fleet to an outage site knowing they will arrive quickly and safely to restore service to your customers. 

You can improve your fleet’s health and reduce vehicle downtime by building out a preventative maintenance schedule based on real-time usage data. Because some telematics devices automatically collect engine fault codes, usage data, and mileage for all your vehicles, your mechanics will have all the information they need to carry out robust preventative maintenance schedules. 

By scheduling regular vehicle checkups—to change oil or replace brake pads—you can prevent larger repairs, like engine or brake failures, which can minimize breakdowns. And because some telematic devices, like the Samsara Vehicle Gateway (VG), continuously pull real-time engine data, it’s easy for mechanics to plan their maintenance schedules months in advance. By planning ahead, you can ensure that regular vehicle upkeep is seamlessly integrated into your mechanics’ workflows.

Reassure customers with live, accurate service updates 

Unplanned utility outages can be disruptive, dangerous, and scary to customers—especially during emergency situations like natural disasters. During hurricanes, storms, or earthquakes, customers can quite literally be in the dark about when they’ll regain access to water and power. Your customers depend on your service to run their businesses and can potentially lose thousands of dollars an hour due to lost productivity and downtime with no idea when they can begin working again. 

On average, utility customers spend two to four hours without power during unexpected outages, so it can be helpful to provide customers with visibility into your efforts to reduce uncertainty and give them peace of mind.

Real-time GPS tracking lets you provide live updates to your customers as you dispatch drivers to repair outages. By sharing driver locations through features like Samsara’s Live Sharing Links, your customers can see the real-time location of the vehicle and worker en route to restore their service. 

Not only can your customers view the ETA of your workers with real-time tracking—they can also see how long a technician is on-site working to restore service once they arrive. Knowing how long your technicians have been working gives your customers a clear picture of when they’ll have their utilities back, which helps them remain calm and collected amidst the stress of an unexpected outage. You can also leverage live sharing locations to prove to your customers that you’re abiding by the outage response times outlined in your SLAs.

By delivering this real-time visibility and peace of mind to your customers during unexpected outages, you demonstrate that you’re always dedicated to providing them with seamless service–even in the event of an emergency. 

Invest in Real-Time Telematics to Decrease Outage Response Times

By investing in telematics solutions that enable better preventative maintenance, quick dispatching, and real-time ETAs, you can increase customer satisfaction by providing greater visibility into your efforts to restore unexpected service outages.

To learn more about how Samsara’s fleet management platform can help you reduce your outage response time, reach out for a free trial today. 

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