Apr
15

Infographic – The Four Major Trends Driving Utility Customer Communication

With the proliferation of mobile technology, increasing frequency and intensity of storms, new utility regulations, and changes in utility billing practices, a mobile customer communication strategy is essential for today’s utilities. The infographic below highlights some important statistics behind these trends. For a more in-depth look into the Four Major Trends Driving Utility Customer Communication, you can view our slideshow and download the accompanying white paper here.

 
The Four Major Trends Driving Utility Customer Communication

 
 

iFactor has mobile solutions that can help utilities and customers alike to save time and money, quickly access important information and increase productivity. Interested in developing a mobile communications strategy for your utility? Watch our video and contact iFactor to learn more.

 
Apr
9

Green Mountain Power Begins Testing New iFactor Mobile App for Home Energy Management

Green Mountain Power recently began a 2 to 3 month test pilot of its “The Smart Home” program for Vermont customers. The program uses smart grid technology to offer customers access to real-time energy usage and home automation through a mobile app developed by iFactor.

According to a press release from the utility, “Vermonters have said time and again that they want to be empowered to make smart energy choices that allow them to control their energy use and save money,” said Mary Powell President and CEO of Green Mountain Power. “This exciting test is an important step in our work to make products like smart plugs, that empower the consumer, available to all Vermonters.”


Interested in learning more about iFactor’s mobile solutions for utilities? Click here.

 
 

iFactor has mobile solutions that can help utilities and customers alike to save time and money, quickly access important information and increase productivity. Interested in developing a mobile communications strategy for your utility? Watch our video and contact iFactor to learn more.

 
Apr
3

ConEd Adds Premise-Level Details to Its Outage Map

iFactor client ConEd recently enhanced its outage map with premise-level data designed to provide customers with more specific detail about outage locations.

Prior to the update, all zoom levels of the map displayed approximate outage locations based on high-level information from the Utility’s Outage Management System (OMS). Because outage locations are determined based on outage orders in the OMS, a single outage may cover several streets or even miles, and an outage icon is placed on the map at the center of the affected area, rather than at an exact location. Now, when customers zoom in closer than the 250-foot level, they can view a new map layer that includes icons for each premise affected by an outage.

The ConEd outage map displays a single outage icon for each approximate outage location.

The outage map displays a single outage icon for each approximate outage location.

When customers zoom in, they can see premise-specific icons within the area affected by an outage.

When customers zoom in, they can see premise-specific icons within the area affected by an outage.

For locations where multiple addresses are too close together for the map to display separate icons, customers have the option to open a pop-up window that displays additional details, including which addresses have reported an outage. This feature is particularly useful for customers in high-occupancy premises such as apartment buildings, who can now more easily determine if an outage has already been reported for their premise.

In the Multiple Outage Detail View, addresses where an outage has already been reported are given the option to check status, while the other addresses are given the option to report an outage.

In the Multiple Outage Detail View, addresses where an outage has already been reported are given the option to check status, while the other addresses are given the option to report an outage.

By visually marking specific addresses on the map for which the utility has received outage reports, ConEd hopes to improve the clarity and usefulness of the information it is providing to customers. This new level of detail is expected to improve customer satisfaction and reduce call volume.

 
 

iFactor has mobile solutions that can help utilities and customers alike to save time and money, quickly access important information and increase productivity. Interested in developing a mobile communications strategy for your utility? Watch our video and contact iFactor to learn more.

 
Mar
18

Southern Company Outage Communications Tools Tested by Harsh Winter Storms

The communications tools we implemented for Southern Companies Gulf Power and Georgia Power have faced their first major tests in the past couple of months, as severe ice storms battered the southeastern United States.

The storm on January 28-29 challenged Gulf Power’s outage map, while the storm that started on February 11 provided an even bigger challenge for Georgia Power’s outage map and alert system. The outage maps for both Gulf Power and Georgia Power are provided by iFactor’s Storm Center product, and Georgia Power’s alert system is provided by iFactor’s Notifi product.

Gulf Power – January 2014

Gulf Power’s outage map was viewed by over 30,000 unique visitors on January 28-29, with Safari, Android, and Chrome being the most popular browsers for accessing the map. In addition, more than half of the visits on Safari were from Gulf Power’s Facebook page, indicating that customers attempting to contact the utility on social media used the outage map to get additional information.

A majority of visits to the map – about 81.4% – were from mobile devices (smartphones and tablets), while about 18.6% of visits were from desktop browsers. The average visit to the site was less than 2 minutes, which supports the idea that outage maps are one of the fastest ways for customers to get information about power outages.

Gulf Power outage map from 01-29-14

Pensacola ABC affiliate WEAR referenced the outage map as part of its storm reporting.

Georgia Power – February 2014

The ice storm that began impacting Georgia Power customers on February 12 was “one of the most severe ice and snow storms to reach the state in the last decade,” according to a press release that the Company issued on February 16.

Georgia Power’s outage map was an important resource for customers during the storm: between February 12 and February 16, the outage map received nearly 830,000 visits from over 450,000 unique visitors. Of those visits, about 56% were from mobile devices.

Georgia Power outage map with weather layer from 02-12-14

Georgia Power’s outage map from February 12 shows the large number of outages, as well as the storms, ice, and snow affecting a large area of the Southeast.

Georgia Power outage map alert banner from 02-14-14

Georgia Power used the Alert banner on its outage map to provide customers with general updates on restoration progress.

local news sites Tweets about Georgia Power outage map

Local news sites provided links to the outage map on Twitter.

In addition to its outage map, Georgia Power uses iFactor’s Notifi alerts and preference management system to provide automated messages to its customers about topics including outages. Between February 10 and February 17, the alert system had about 16,000 new customer registrations, an increase of over 267% from the pre-storm level. The system sent nearly 8,000 proactive outage messages by SMS, email, and IVR, and it received over 2,400 outage reports via SMS between February 11 and February 13.

Georgia Power Facebook photo of tree on line across road

Georgia Power posted photos of storm damage to Facebook to help customers understand some of the reasons for delayed restoration.

Approximately 8,200 Southern Company employees, contractors, and mutual assistance partners supported the restoration. As of 8:00 p.m. on February 13, Georgia Power had restored service to 480,000 customers since the beginning of the storm, while 120,000 customers remained without power. By 8:00 p.m. on February 14, those numbers had changed to 640,000 customers restored and 60,000 customers without power.

These figures demonstrate both the scope of the storm and one of the particular challenges of restoration after a severe storm: the aftermath of the storm continued to cause outages while Georgia Power was working to restore power. By February 15, three days after the start of the storm, Georgia Power had restored 99 percent of the nearly 700,000 total outages.

Outcomes

For both Gulf Power and Georgia Power, these ice storms required sustained coordination of response efforts, involving miles of roads and power lines and thousands of workers and pieces of equipment. We at iFactor are proud to have been a part of those efforts, and to work with Gulf Power and Georgia Power to continue improving their lines of communication with their customers.

 
 

iFactor has mobile solutions that can help utilities and customers alike to save time and money, quickly access important information and increase productivity. Interested in developing a mobile communications strategy for your utility? Watch our video and contact iFactor to learn more.

 
Mar
11

Press Release: iFactor Launches Customer Communication Solutions for United Illuminating, Green Mountain Power, and SMECO

iFactor Consulting is pleased to announce that the fourth quarter of 2013 included launches of our Notifi solution for United Illuminating in Connecticut and Green Mountain Power in Vermont, as well as a dual launch of our Notifi solution and iFactor Mobile apps for Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative (SMECO).

United Illuminating

United Illuminating’s Notifi implementation focuses on outage alerts, providing proactive alerts for outage notifications, estimated restoration time updates, and restoration notifications, as well as two-way text message communication that allows customers to register an account, add an account nickname, sign up for alerts, and pause or resume alerts.

United Illuminating provides outage alerts by SMS text message, email, and text-to-speech voice message. The Notifi solution also allows administrative users at United Illuminating to broadcast ad hoc messages about storm activity to customers registered for alerts.

UI Alerts Website Banner

The United Illuminating Company (UI) is a New Haven-based regional electric distribution company providing services to 325,000 residential, commercial and industrial customers in the Greater New Haven and Bridgeport areas.

Green Mountain Power

Green Mountain Power’s Notifi implementation was launched in November 2013. The implementation includes proactive outage alerts and two-way text message communications, and allows admin users at Green Mountain Power to send broadcast messages to customers by zip code. Proactive outage alerts are sent for new outages, updates to estimated restoration times (ERTs), and power restoration. Two-way text messaging allows customers to register for alerts, set nicknames for accounts, pause and resume messaging, report an outage, request outage status, unsubscribe from alerts, or receive a list of available text messaging commands. Green Mountain Power has been promoting the new text alert system on its Twitter and Facebook pages, as well as on its web site. As of February 7, over 3,000 customers have registered to receive alerts.

Green Mountain Power text alerts

Green Mountain Power is a statewide electricity utility based in Colchester, Vermont, providing services to more than 250,000 customers.

SMECO

Working with iFactor in the fourth quarter, SMECO launched an SMS text messaging service and a mobile app for iOS and Android devices. These tools join an outage map and outage reporting tool powered by iFactor’s Storm Center product to complete SMECO’s Outage Communications System.

SMECO alerts website banner

The text messaging service powered by iFactor’s Notifi solution allows SMECO members to use two-way SMS text messages to register for alerts, report an outage, request an outage update, and pause and resume messages.

The mobile app allows members to make one-time payments to their accounts, to view SMECO’s outage map, and to report outages and receive outage updates. Payments require a log in with a utility account number and billing zip code, while outage reporting requires a zip code and either an account number or phone number.

SMECO mobile app screenshots

SMECO is a customer-owned electric cooperative providing electricity to over 154,000 members in southern Prince George’s County, and in Charles County, St. Mary’s County, and all but the northeast portion of Calvert County, Maryland.

About iFactor Consulting

iFactor Consulting develops customer communications solutions for the utility sector, delivering information to more than 100 million people in North America through deployments at more than 30 utilities. iFactor’s solutions allow utilities to leverage connected technologies such as the web, mobile web, and smart phones to interact with their customers. Visit www.ifactorconsulting.com for more information.

Contact:

Alison Copeland, iFactor Consulting
alison@ifactorconsulting.com
480.584.3041

 

 
 

iFactor has mobile solutions that can help utilities and customers alike to save time and money, quickly access important information and increase productivity. Interested in developing a mobile communications strategy for your utility? Watch our video and contact iFactor to learn more.