In an era of constant communication and overwhelming amounts of data, information fatigue is always a risk. In one industry, however, overcommunicating has not caused a backlash. In fact, it has been quite the opposite.


The utility industry has spent millions of dollars in recent years on new information technology to help it manage transmission, predict outages, gather data and communicate with its customers. Studies show that effort has not gone to waste; especially not on the last point.


Surveys show that customers have a markedly higher rate of satisfaction with the quality and reliability of the power delivered by their utility, when the utility does a thorough job of communicating with them when outages occur.


The global market research firm J.D. Power and Associates has conducted satisfaction surveys of both residential and business utility customers. Both groups showed a higher level of satisfaction with power quality and reliability when the utility communicates information about restoring power after an outage.


For example, a survey of business customers found an average satisfaction rating of 729 on a scale of 1,000 when power is restored by the time estimated by the utility. However, if the utility miscalculates and power is restored later than the time estimated, satisfaction drops to 576, a difference of more than 150 points.


Along the same lines, business customers in the survey reported a much higher level of satisfaction when the utility provided at least three points of information during an outage. Satisfaction was lowest for customers who receive only one point of information.


The results are similar for residential utility customers. A separate survey conducted by J.D. Power shows a similarly higher level of satisfaction when utilities “proactively communicate outage information” to residential customers.


All of this is a good sign for utilities that have made the commitment to improve communications with customers. The growing frequency of severe weather events, the ever expanding universe of communication tools and devices, and the increased use of demand response programs, will push the need for more and better communications with customers even higher.