SOURCE: Twenty First Century Communications

Twenty First Century Communications

February 25, 2010 15:50 ET

TFCC Helps Utilities Handle Record-Setting Winter Storms

Southern Utilities Aid Washington D.C. Area Utilities With Virtual Call Center

COLUMBUS, OH--(Marketwire - February 25, 2010) -  February's record-setting snow storm systems knocked out power in widely scattered parts of the east coast. Especially hard hit was the Washington D.C. area.

Knowing that their call center would be overwhelmed with emergency and downed wire calls, Washington D.C. utility Pepco, used the Mutual Assistance Routing System (MARS®) from Twenty First Century Communications to receive power outage call center assistance from another utility. 

Pepco asked Florida utility Tampa Electric to help field the large influx of Washington D.C. phone calls. Tampa Electric quickly agreed and within three hours was using the call center mutual assistance service to route phone calls away from Pepco's Washington D.C. call center directly to the Tampa call center - in essence creating a virtual call center on the fly.

The Mutual Assistance Routing System enables utilities to automatically redirect high volumes of outage calls to other utilities during an emergency. It has been thoroughly tested since its introduction in 2007, but this month's record-breaking blizzards offered the first chance to mobilize and use the MARS system and "it was a success," according to Nicole Carter-Mizzell, Pepco manager, customer operations group. "Once we activated MARS, Tampa Electric's call center was able to offer our Washington D.C. customers the opportunity to speak with a live agent regarding their outage. In fact over 90% of customer calls were answered by a live customer service rep."

"The biggest lesson we learned in this inaugural use of MARS was the importance of having emergency calls answered by an experienced and knowledgeable utility customer service rep. This is the heart of the MARS program," said Barb Powers, Tampa Electric director of customer service. "By the time we were taking calls some people had been without power for 2-3 days and were anxious to talk to a live person. Any time customers have to deal with electricity it is imperative that an experienced and knowledgeable utility customer service person is available to walk the customer through the situation," Powers added.

A second use of the MARS system happened a few days later. Facing another onslaught of snow, Pepco used MARS again to send customer calls to Tampa Electric. In addition Atlantic City Electric activated MARS and received call center help from two Southern Company subsidiaries -- Georgia Power and Alabama Power.

"The virtual sharing of call center resources was not practical prior to MARS," said Jim Kennedy, CEO of Twenty First Century Communications. "Before MARS, phone calls could not be transferred across carriers. For example a call to a utility using AT&T could not be transferred or forwarded to a utility using Sprint. Further, each utility's CSRs used unique computer screens tied to a unique customer database. TFCC has 'cracked the code' using our telecom network and our interfaces into our utility clients customer information systems to provide MARS clients with a seamless experience," Kenney concluded.

The Mutual Assistance Routing System idea originated in 2007 when several utilities asked Twenty First Century Communications to partner with them to develop a system where utilities could assist each other in taking outage calls during an emergency situation. A task force led by Alberto M. Osterling of Pepco, Barbara Powers of Tampa Electric Company, and Twenty First Century Communications developed the framework for the mutual assistance routing system. Today several Twenty First Century Communication utility clients have signed on to share call center resources in emergency use including PEPCO, Delmarva, Tampa Electric Company, AEP, Entergy, Southern Company and NSTAR. MARS is the next evolution of Twenty First Century Communications High Volume Call Answering service.

For More MARS Information

Contact Information

  • Contact:
    John Rhind
    Director , Marketing & Communications
    Phone: 614-442-1215 ext. 262

    750 Communications Pkwy.
    Columbus, Ohio 43214