Utility providers can damage their brand instantly if faced with an outage or emergency unprepared. It’s important to find ways to not only keep your brand in tact but to also prepare for unexpected events and build trust with customers leading up to, during, and after such events. National emergencies consistently raise pressures from the public for companies to perform better during major events, and utility providers are challenged with both reactive and long-term strategies to increase efficiencies and communications both year-round and when facing an unexpected emergency.
Expect the Worst
It only takes one storm to harm your reputation. Using past events as a guide, look at major emergencies and examine both how organizations responded and how customers reacted to the service. Evaluate the major events of the past ten years: Hurricanes Sandy, Katrina and Irene, the vast number of Midwest tornados and Western wildfires, the tropical storms, the floods, and the blizzards. What are the success stories, and which were chaotic and disorganized? Are you prepared to deal quickly and efficiently with the operational and customer service related functions that will stem from one of these disasters? Your company needs proactive plans that increase spends for outages, and then to design data-driven strategies involving testing, proven daily operational efficiencies, and plans in place to respond quickly to both the crisis and the consumer response.
Building customer trust prior to crisis events is integral in keeping customers happy. Understand your customer perceptions and needs and build better customer experiences long before facing disasters. Initial and prior customer brand perception has a huge impact on how customers respond to and rate a utility provider’s performance during an emergency. Developing trust through engagement and positive connections during the entire customer lifecycle will drive your customers to greater satisfaction year-round. In addition, knowing ahead of time what expectations they have during outages is key in creating a strategy that accommodates both operations and positive customer experiences.
Get the Message Right
Your communication strategy to your customers will make or break your brand perception. Find ways to improve your communication efforts while addressing messaging performance and reliability. Strategize with timely and proactive information deployed to consumers and ensure that information delivery is both efficient and accurate. Additionally, prior to events, design content plans that engage your customers with educational and proactive information to increase awareness and two-way communications between your business and your consumers.
Use Your Resources
The channels you use to connect with customers will be just as important as the content itself. Utilize real-time alerts as well as texting, social media, email, and website updates. Take note of customer communication preferences while finding the best ways to utilize all available digital customers to update individuals before, during, and after an emergency. Provide customers with a unified, multi-channel experience that will reduce incoming call center costs and increase transparency and knowledge sharing about status, weather, and warning updates.
Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late
Customers build greater trust with brands when, during a crisis, utility companies have already laid the groundwork with proactive messaging, educational materials, and engaging efforts. Develop your 2015 content strategy with particular attention to crisis management and always keep the customer at the forefront of your strategies. SilverTech’s experience with leaders in the utility field can assist you with strategies surrounding content planning and outage preparation.