For years, Turlock Irrigation District (TID) customers have only had one source of information in the event of an electrical outage: calling the TID main office.
Now, for the first time, TID customers can learn about outages online, with a new feature on the district’s website.
The new page, located at tid.com/outages, is part of a new district system aimed at improving outage communication overall. The move follows a nationwide trend among utilities to improve outage communication.
“Interest in outage communication in general is on the rise nationwide,” said Herb Smart, TID spokesperson. “Customers want information fast, and they want it to be accurate.”
Customer-focused market research firm J.D. Power and Associates surveyed 28,000 people about power outages. In general, customers were pleased with how their utilities performed in the event of an outage, but many desired better communication.
For 93 percent of customers, the most important bit of information is knowing when the power will come back on. But for about half of consumers, knowing why the power went out is just as important.
“The more information customers receive, the more likely customers will be satisfied,” Smart said.
Previously, TID’s communication system relied on phone calls, manually e-mailed internal status updates, and a lot of busy work. Now, with the new system, much of that work is automated and streamlined.
When the power goes out, power control center operators will now complete a form on TID’s internal website. As soon as the form is completed – a task taking less than a minute – the page at tid.com/outages is automatically updated, providing prompt, accurate information in a smartphone-friendly format.
Information about the outage will also be automatically e-mailed to customer service representatives and other TID employees, ensuring callers will be greeted by operators with the most up-to-date information.
“(The website) isn’t meant to replace anything,” Smart said. “It’s meant to compliment.”
The outage web page also has answers to frequently asked questions in the event of an outage, ranging from how to check a breaker box, to how TID works to restore power.
The new system brings TID’s outage communication up to the level of other area utilities, which have had online outage information for some time. Other outage communication upgrades could be on the horizon, ranging from a system which automatically calls or texts customers in the event of an outage, to mobile phone apps to view and report power issues.
But, for now, the move to the internet is enough to please many TID customers. Following a nearly month-long soft launch, the district has already heard myriad comments about how user-friendly the new site is.
“We’ve already heard from customers about how they enjoy the ease of use,” Smart said.