“There has to be an easier way!” I find myself saying this often as I research and analyze the streetlight reporting process at municipalities and utilities across the country. I’ve noticed some common obstacles in the streetlight outage reporting process, and have seen a few good ideas as well.
The number one issue I have run across is: who owns the light? It is impossible to report an incident until you know who owns the light. In reviewing a streetlight outage in the northeastern United States, I came up empty handed after browsing the internet to find out where to report the light and had to call the local public works department. They informed me that the local utility handles all of the city’s streetlights. This was impossible to determine without
reviewing several different organizations’ websites and making a couple of phone calls. This takes a considerable amount of time, and I can see how it would easily frustrate a customer that simply wants to report an outage for the light in front of their house. After spending a half hour trying to find this information, I was finally able to report the outage on the utility’s website. Thankfully, their site was very user friendly, with a quick reporting process that asked for minimal details, another key point to remember.
The problem of “where do I report this light?” is easily solved with the organizational trusts feature of SLO. Using organizational trusts, SLO takes streetlight data from multiple organizations serving the same region, and displays all of those light locations on the same map. When a report is submitted, SLO automatically routes that report to the proper organization. If the light is maintained by the local municipality, that organization will receive the ticket. On the other hand, if the light is maintained by the local utility, that organization will receive the ticket. But to the customer, the streetlight reporting process becomes seamless and straightforward. No longer is it necessary to research who owns what lights and figure out which phone number or website to use to submit a report. The user simply locates the light on either the municipality or utility website (as long as they are both SLO customers), or on the main SLO site, and can clearly see who the report is being submitted to. Backstage, the report is properly routed to the correct organization.
As mentioned earlier, having a simple outage reporting process is key to keeping your customers happy. I was fairly unhappy with a utility in the Midwest that had a lengthy and confusing process. After figuring out they didn’t have an online reporting tool, I had to call customer service. To report a problem with a streetlight I had to have all of the following information: address, closest cross streets, and type of light. I imagine most people wouldn’t know the type of light, so how is an outage reported without that information?
With SLO, all the details you maintain for each light in your database are tied to that light in the SLO system. Your streetlight GIS data is quickly uploaded to SLO, and each light location is represented by a light icon on the map. When your customers submit a report for one of the lights on your SLO map, all information tied to that light is submitted to you with the report. The data sent to your organization with each outage report is completely customizable, including but not limited to: light type, pole number, latitude and longitude, light wattage, and address. With SLO, you don’t need to rely on your customers to provide the information you need to send out a repair crew.
On the other hand, I found a reporting site for a city in the southwest to be quick and easy to use. It was very convenient that you could enter the address of the light or the pole number. Most people will have one piece of the information or the other.
SLO provides this benefit as well, since it does not require your customers to submit all the necessary information when reporting a light outage. With SLO, users can search for a light by browsing the map, entering a pole number, or using an address. Once the report is submitted, all of the location information is tied to the trouble ticket for ease of processing in your backend systems.
Offering a way to easily report streetlight incidents online can deliver many benefits. It helps save valuable time for call center representatives, while capturing more accurate information from the customers. Even in cases where a call still comes in, the SLO platform provides a great tool to allow the call center staff to quickly submit an accurate report on the caller’s behalf. Having more timely and accurate information avoids wasted time for field crews and extra costs when the wrong facilities are visited – and in some cases even repaired. SLO helps make it easy to capture and manage light reports online, provides a great customer experience, and enhances your back office processes and field work.