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As Rising Extreme Weather-Related Incidents Disrupt Utility Operations, Crisis Communication Emerges as Key Factor for Effective Customer Engagement
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) the U.S. experienced 20 separate billion-dollar weather and climate disasters in 2021, second only to 2020 in terms of the most disasters in a calendar year. To put the trend into an industry-specific context, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports that energy utilities experienced twice the outage time during 2021 than they did five years earlier. This has affected electric and gas utilities alike.
"It has been no picnic for affected consumers either," says Jeff Conklin, Vice President of Utilities Intelligence and Technology, Media, & Telecom Intelligence at J.D. Power. "The more fortunate consumers faced the consequences of merely dealing with service interruptions. Many others have been forced to abandon their homes and seek refuge—often in the coldest days of winter or the hottest segments of summer—until some sense of normalcy could be reinstated in their communities."
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All of this, according to J.D. Power, is elevating the importance of crisis communications as a key factor defining the relationship between energy utilities and their communities of interest.
"As a result, a growing number of utilities are reinvigorating efforts to improve constituent engagement strategies before, during and after critical events," says Jim Croce, Senior Director, Utilities Intelligence at J.D. Power. "The good news is that properly focused and resourced crisis communications can make a difference. When effectively applied, crisis communications can help communities of interest mitigate the worst effects of catastrophic events. But it requires a commitment to an extremely high level of customer engagement and interaction."
Effective Crisis Communications Requires a Comprehensive Perspective
It would be a mistake to think of crisis communications in a vacuum. The most successful utilities in the industry have pursued comprehensive engagement strategies that are rooted in having an active conversation with key constituents on an ongoing basis. The same tools and tactics that are applied to maintain effective lines of communication with customers on a day-to-day basis become the foundation on which crises can be managed when they unexpectedly manifest themselves.
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Success does not flow simply from practicing crisis response drills. Instead, they are a byproduct of efforts by utilities that are focused on delivering their service while building connections with communities to establish trust.
[Editor's Note: To read the full report visit: https://hub.jdpower.com/utility-crisis-communications]
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