Submitted by OPALCO
If you’ve called Orcas Power and Light Cooperative lately, you’ve noticed the new phone system. Like it is in the rest of the world, callers start out with an automated menu and press a key to get what they are looking for. Press 1 for outages; press 2 to speak to an OPALCO member services representative. What you probably didn’t know:
For after-hours and during busy outages, OPALCO contracts with Cooperative Response Center, a sister co-op shop that serves more than 40 rural electric co-ops nationwide.
Every phone call can be answered, if not by OPALCO staff, then by the 24/7 dispatch center – no more busy signal or phones turned off during high-volume outage management
Every time someone reports an outage on the phone system, OPALCO’s outage map (www.opalco.com/outages) is automatically updated, and crews can more quickly predict where and how big outage events are, speeding up their response and restoration times
Members can access the same outage map that our crew uses from their smartphones – or anywhere they have internet access – giving members real-time outage updates. The new system is saving members money, which translates to a lower cost of service, and reduces future rate increases.
OPALCO is calling local musicians who are willing to share their music for our phone system. OPALCO would like to feature a local musician each month and, in exchange, will share their profile and links to their music in our monthly newsletter.
“While we can’t afford to trade the benefits and efficiencies of our new phone system for the old way: ‘keep on calling until you get through to a person,’” said OPALCO Public Relations Administrator Suzanne Olson. “We can feature familiar voices and highlight local talent in the music.”
Why did OPALCO install a new system? The old phone system was starting to fail. With members’ growing demand for real-time information, OPALCO needed a system that could meet the needs of our staff and members. OPALCO staff answer the phones during the day and dispatch crews when outages occur. When the volume of calls becomes too high to handle, the phones switch over to the 24/7 dispatch center.
“We just can’t handle the volume of calls,” said General Manager Foster Hildreth. “We know our members prefer to speak with someone local – and we’re sorry that we can’t always make that happen.”
The greatest benefit of the new system is in how it improves power outage management. OPALCO’s outage map online is updated in real time, and the staff is freed up to deal with restoring power. The friendly staff at the Cooperative Response Center may not be familiar with the “house just past John’s Pond,” but they are extremely well trained to handle emergency calls, dispatch our crews to get the power back on and keep our outage information flowing to members.
When an outage happens a member can:
– Check www.opalco.com/outages on their internet-connected devices (smartphone, tablet, etc.).
– Call 360-376-3500 to report an outage (during a busy outage time, you will get the call center).
– Call a friend who has a smartphone and can access social media or the website for outage info and updates.