5 Questions with Tanya Messer on How the Outage Centre Helps Customers
August 08, 2016
Our Outage Centre knows exactly how disruptive power outages are for customers. For example, a big storm that creates widespread outages will result in thousands of calls. We sat down with Tanya Messer, Outage Centre Manager, to understand how SaskPower keeps customers up-to-speed while they're in the dark.
What does SaskPower's outage centre do?
The Outage Centre is responsible for handling all electrical emergency calls and power outage calls for SaskPower.
We are the first point of contact for our customers and dispatch emergency work to our field staff. We also keep in regular contact with our power line technicians after hours, to ensure they're safe.
The Outage Centre is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days of the year and can be reached by calling 310-2220.
How does SaskPower notify customers before a planned power outage occurs?
When there's a planned power outage we use different tools to notify customers like radio ads, community posters, door hangers, tweets and updates on saskpower.com.
The tool used depends on the number of customers impacted, duration and the type of work being done.
We also have customers whose health depends on critical lifesaving medical equipment, and we'll call them in advance to ensure that they are aware of the planned outage. Certain businesses have equipment or product that could be severely damaged in case of an outage, so we reach out to them as well.
What's our process to communicate with customers during an unplanned power outage?
When there's an unplanned power outage, customer calls help us determine the size and location of the power outage.
As we confirm power outage information from our crews, we update our automated phone message and send a tweet which automatically publishes on saskpower.com.
Once our crews find the problem and provide an estimate of when they'll have the power back on, we update our customers again using the same channels.
Why does SaskPower use Twitter?
Research has shown customers seek out power outage information via twitter. In fact, of the 94,000 twitter accounts in Saskatchewan, or about 45% (42,000 accounts) follow @SaskPower and 80% of these followers access our information from a mobile device.
Every major media outlet follows @SaskPower. Plus, anyone can access the outage information without having a twitter account.
Why don't I see a tweet immediately after my power goes out?
We learn about power outages from customer calls. The system can't automatically report outages. Our standard rule of thumb is to update twitter when there's information to share. There are three waiting periods between updates:
1. Before we send a power outage acknowledgement tweet, our staff confirms the size and location of the outage. Remember, we rely on customer calls to determine the number of customers impacted, the location, and potential cause of the outage.
2. Before we tweet the cause of the power outage or when the power will return, our crew must find the cause of the power outage. This is done manually – a crew has to drive beside the power lines to assess them.
3. Our crew fixes the problem. Sometimes after repairs begin, other issues are found. In those cases, we need more time to get the power back on.
"The Outage Centre is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days of the year and can be reached by calling 310-2220."
"When there's a planned power outage we use different tools to notify customers like radio ads, community posters, door hangers, tweets and updates on saskpower.com."
"We learn about power outages from customer calls. The system can't automatically report outages. Our standard rule of thumb is to update twitter when there's information to share."