Hammonton, NJ – September 2008 – EPP’s Mike Caffrey was a featured presenter at the Utility Outage and Customer Service Conference held on September 18 and 19th, 2008 at the Ritz Carlton in St. Louis, MO. “Utilities have a long history of successfully assisting one another during catastrophic events. They are committed to helping one another and there are a number of established mutual assistance networks that support this process, primarily focused on line personnel”, said Mike Caffrey, Vice President of Operations for EPP.
The purpose of these networks is to provide a process where utilities that have been impacted by a significant event can obtain emergency assistance in the form of personnel, equipment, materials, and other associated services, from other utility companies. The goal is to provide a rapid, short-term resource mobilization to restore the critical operations of the affected utility. The concept of expanding the mutual assistance concept to a Customer Service organization was explored.
The benefits of a mutual assistance process are numerous: provides for advance planning and increased coordination; enhanced access to specialized resources; expedited arrival of assistance; and minimized administrative issues.
Customer Service personnel have a unique skill set. They are trained to communicate with customers and they know how to diffuse tense situations. In long-term restoration events these skills are essential. Many companies try to back-fill these positions with personnel from various parts of the company, with varying degrees of success. The last thing you want is an inexperienced person losing their cool with customers that have been out of service for a lengthy period of time. That is what will make the news, and those complaints will reach the utility regulators.
In this highly interactive session participants learned the key steps to develop a mutual assistance process for Customer Service and Call Center personnel. They learned the step-by-step process for the three key phases, and received a Checklist of Actions that covered the following areas:
- Phase 1 – Development
- Identifying Interest
- Form a Team
- Prepare a Kickoff Session
- Establish a Steering Committee
- Identify Mission and Goals
- Phase 2 – Tools
- Identify Activation Criteria
- Draft an Agreement
- Develop Checklists
- Develop Communication Protocols
- Phase 3 – Program Maintenance
- Periodic Meetings