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5 Steps to Building Your Outage Notification Strategy

February 26, 2024

One of the first things you do when utility services go out is check when they'll come back on. A strong outage notification strategy is crucial for utility providers. It can dramatically improve the customer experience and your restoration efforts.

As severe weather becomes more common, utility companies must establish proactive approaches to alerting customers. Use these five steps to create an outage notification strategy and effectively reach your customers.

1. Define Target Audience

Start by establishing who will receive the notifications. You could try to divvy up your messaging by customer demographics, but a simpler approach is to let your customers choose what communications they receive and how they receive them.

Providing outage notification preferences helps in two ways. It alleviates your team from figuring out how to contact each customer best, and it gives your customers control over their communications. For example, some customers will opt out of marketing messaging but would still like to receive urgent updates. Preference management allows you to meet your customers' individual needs while minimizing your workload.

Some customers will take a set-it-and-forget-it approach, so it's important to remind them to update their settings occasionally. An annual reminder can help ensure customers aren't receiving alerts they don't want or getting annoyed at the frequency.

Most mass communications are subject to some regulations, so keep these in mind for emails, texts, and phone calls. For example, organizations like the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have legislation to prevent spam, robocalls, and other unwanted communication.

To maintain compliance, it is crucial to adhere to applicable requirements, such as implementing the SHAKEN/STIR framework to authenticate Caller ID information and respect the preferences of individuals who have opted out of being contacted. and not calling someone who has requested not to be contacted. An alert management system can streamline the process of tracking preferences, helping you stay compliant with regulations.

2. Establish Communication Protocols

An established plan is crucial for your outage notification process, as it determines how and how often your audience will receive alerts. Having communication protocols ensures you can execute them immediately or automatically when an outage occurs instead of scrambling to send messages. It helps show your customers you're working hard to fix the problem and maintain transparency.

With so many options, you can offer alerts through text messages, emails, push notifications from an app, and automated phone calls.

Some elements to include in your protocol include:

  • Frequent notifications: Issue frequent updates during an outage, such as delays to restoration or an en-route crew. Ideally, your system will issue these notifications automatically. An outage notification system can use templates to include relevant information in automated messages.
  • Communication with local stakeholders: Include local stakeholders, regulators, and the general public in your plan. You may need to report or share information with your local government, emergency services and transportation authorities. Add them to your plan to avoid any forgotten messages. Help the general public stay informed by posting updates online, such as on your website and social media.
  • Pre-outage messaging: Consider communicating with customers before you expect an outage, such as sending a storm warning, a link to preparation advice on your website or app, or a reminder about a planned outage.

Create a detailed protocol that identifies what information you will send and what events trigger it. If not using an automated system, you'll also need to determine who will write and send the messages and how they will segment the information. This process can be slow and complicated, so try to streamline and automate wherever possible.

3. Create Templates and Messaging

Templates are an excellent way to streamline your communications while providing consistent and detailed information each time. Build messages as part of your protocol so you can quickly fill out your templates as needed.

Your messages to customers should include:

  • A description of what caused the outage.
  • A description of the affected area.
  • Reassurance that the outage is being resolved.
  • An estimated time for when the outage will likely be fixed.
  • Directions for reporting additional outages or other problems.
  • Information on finding resources such as ice trucks and water.

Depending on the communication method, you could use your messaging to connect customers with more resources. For instance, a push notification could direct users to open the app and see your interactive outage map. A text message might provide a link to the tool online. An outage map is an excellent resource for reducing call volumes, but you must make sure customers can find it.

Accuracy is critical in your messaging, so make sure your templates link with reliable sources. For instance, a direct connection to your outage management system helps ensure customers receive up-to-date information.

4. Establish Escalation Procedures

Include communication procedures in your strategy for escalating issues, such as identifying outages not in your system or severe situations like downed power lines. These resources help people get answers and support your response team. Tell customers how to reach out, such as calling you directly or 911 if necessary. You can also create a two-way dialogue that allows customers to interact with you through your messaging channels. An automated system makes this process quick and efficient.

When paired with a natural language processing technology like KUBRA IQ™️, customers can use the same language they would with an agent and receive automated responses. For example, a customer could reply to your text alert by saying, “When is my power supposed to be back?” KUBRA IQ understands the request and will reply with the estimated restoration time.

Remember to keep local stakeholders in the loop when escalations occur by including communications with these parties in your plan. Set up automated messaging and identify a responsible party who will keep this information updated and send any manual messages required.

5. Gather Feedback from Your Customers

The last step on our list is to collect feedback on your communication strategy. You won't know if it works unless you ask or collect data. Issue occasional surveys about your messaging to see how your customers feel. You can send them out via an app or email. Ask local stakeholders about their experience, too. Is there any information they'd like to have that you don't already share?

You can also assess your strategy by reviewing data from outage communications, such as open rates and engagement metrics. This information can help you adjust your plan to improve the customer experience and responses.

Streamline Your Outage Notification Process With KUBRA

Outage notifications are crucial to your relationship with customers, and KUBRA has technology to help every step of the way. Notifi® Alerts and Preference Management offers easy, personalized communications for your customers across their preferred channels. Automate your messages and create natural conversations powered by AI. Pair Notifi with our interactive outage map tool or mobile app to deliver the full scope of outage information.

Explore Notifi today to learn how we can help you effectively communicate during your next utility outage.

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