The PowerAssist Story

Today’s consumers can shop for groceries and pick up prescription medications just as easily at four o’clock in the afternoon as at four o’clock in the morning. Online, search engines have conditioned users to expect immediate results any time of the day or night.

Electricity customers’ expectations for power outage communications are no different. To meet these expectations, many utilities have come to depend on technology to deliver outage information. Online outage maps, interactive voice recognition, auto-tweets, and e-mail and text push notifications have successfully enabled utilities to communicate power outage restoration information around-the-clock with minimal, typically system control room, staff resources.

But for the consumer sitting in the dark, something is missing. Surveys and focus groups have overwhelmingly indicated that having the option to speak with a real person in real time is a common expectation, despite utilities’ best efforts to provide power information through technology-based solutions.

A massive ice storm, which hit the northeast in December 2013 and resulted in over a million outages, drove this issue home and forced many utilities to reassess their outage management services. Utilities experienced a significant spike in customer calls over a very short period, in some cases completely overwhelming their operations and customer service departments. Customers were frustrated by their inability to connect with a live agent during this emergency situation.

Utilities realized that measures must be taken to improve customer service. PowerAssist’s staff-sharing model which delivers both redundancy and cost efficiencies, immediately generated interest among affected utilities. PowerAssist now serves more than 2.1 million end customers.