Util-Assist is pleased to announce it is providing PowerAssist outage management services to two more Ontario utilities: Algoma Power Inc. (Algoma Power) and Canadian Niagara Power Inc. (Canadian Niagara Power). PowerAssist became available around-the-clock to Algoma Power customers and after hours to Canadian Niagara Power customers on June 1st, 2016. The implementation of PowerAssist services at both utilities was completed seamlessly and on time thanks to the effort and cooperation of Util-Assist and utility staff.

Distribution areas in remote parts of Ontario are often vast, and the utilities servicing these areas face unique challenges, especially during outages and inclement weather. Service calls can involve hours of travel time alone. Algoma Power, based out of Sault Ste. Marie, distributes power in an area of approximately 14,000 square kilometers, much of which has only limited access by road. Improved coordination of restoration services in these kinds of areas can go a long way towards minimizing outage times and ensuring the best possible service for customers. Previously, both Algoma Power and Canadian Niagara Power maintained after-hours call centres to take messages, but now when callers reach the PowerAssist line with an issue, skilled agents are able to initiate responses and incorporate up-to-the-minute utility data into restoration planning.

In the first month, PowerAssist was engaged in managing events and storm activities, and both utilities expressed satisfaction with the way outages were managed.  As Kristine Carmichael, Director of Corporate and Customer Services of FortisOntario Inc. explained, “With 24 x 7 support and continuous engagement between our staff and PowerAssist agents, we’ve improved our processes as well as the customer experience.”

Kevin Scott, a product manager at Util-Assist who is responsible for the PowerAssist service, further outlined the benefits: “Our agents triage and prioritize incoming calls.  In this way, utility staff can streamline operations and dispatch crews to the high priority locations first.  This is particularly important when managing outages in a massive service territory like Algoma Power’s.”

Utilities work hard to keep the power on 24 x 7, but when outages can’t be avoided, it is important to attend customer concerns and provide them with rapid and well-informed responses. The PowerAssist program enables utilities to increase customer satisfaction, uphold service levels, and improve emergency preparedness by providing reliable outage management and call center services during both planned and unplanned power disruptions. PowerAssist agents specialize in handling calls courteously and efficiently and work in conjunction with utility customer service departments to enhance the level and availability of customer service. PowerAssist allows callers to reach live assistance twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and PowerAssist agents are able to access service order and meter data to provide customers with current information including outage causes, outage areas, and estimated restoration times.

Based on the success with Algoma Power and Canadian Niagara Power, two other Fortis-owned utilities are planning to adopt PowerAssist as part of their customer service and outage management strategies in the near future. Currently, Util-Assist provides PowerAssist services to seven Ontario utilities and nearly 700,000 customers across Ontario.

About Algoma Power Inc.

 

Algoma Power Inc. (Algoma Power) is headquartered in Sault Ste. Marie but services a diverse range of customers along 1800 kilometers of lines, covering approximately 14,200 square kilometers. Algoma Power is a wholly owned subsidiary of FortisOntario Inc.

 

About Canadian Niagara Power Inc.

 

Canadian Niagara Power Inc. (Canadian Niagara Power) proudly and safely distributes electricity to over 24,800 homes and businesses in the communities of Fort Erie and Port Colborne, Ontario. Canadian Niagara Power is also responsible for the maintenance of the local electricity distribution system. Canadian Niagara Power is a wholly owned subsidiary of FortisOntario Inc.

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