Peco uses new technology to improve communications with customers

PHILADELPHIA, September 9, 2004 (PRNewswire) — When power outages occur, PECO Energy’s more than 1.5 million customers in the Philadelphia region will now be better informed as a result of technology enhancements with its Call Center and Dispatch Operations.

For customers, the enhancements mean PECO can ensure that the proper crew is sent to the location and shave minutes off of the amount of time it takes to respond to the outage. Even with these advances, PECO still urges its customers to call when power is lost. Generally, only 10 to 15 percent of customers who experience an outage notify the company. Those calls, however, help PECO zone in on problem areas and speed up our response time.

PECO’s new ally in responding to service interruptions is an offshoot of its investment in automated meter reading (AMR). The meters at each customer’s property are now set up to provide a signal alerting the company to outages. Known as “last gasp” messaging, the messages will be linked electronically with incoming customer calls to accelerate response time for repairs.

The company completed an $800,000 upgrade to connect its AMR system, which is used to measure energy usage for customer billing, with its outage management system, which is used by dispatchers in the Distribution Operations Control Center. As a result, PECO’s dispatchers can conduct on-demand meter readings to determine if electricity is on or off at a particular house, several homes or a circuit.

Technology has played a pivotal role at PECO in its recent attempts to improve customer satisfaction. During the past five years, the company has installed dozens of advanced electronic switches on distribution circuits, which can sense a problem such as a car hitting a utility pole, a tree fallen on aerial power lines, or a lightning strike. The “sectionalizer” automatically identifies the area affected and re-routes the power flow to limit the number of customers affected by the incident. Such technology converts what was a longer power outage in the past to simply a flicker.

“These projects are prime examples of how PECO is working smarter and faster to satisfy our customers,” PECO President Denis P. O’Brien said. “With these tools we are improving our overall performance and productivity, reducing costs, and increasing our reliability.”

The PECO Call Center’s interactive voice response system allows thousands of customers to call at the same time, and customers can easily report a power outage or check the status of their account. Those who are more inclined to work online can request new service, transfer service for a move, or pay their monthly bill in a matter of moments. PECO plans additional service offerings to its “online convenience center” in the next year.

Based in Philadelphia, PECO Energy is an electric and natural gas utility subsidiary of Exelon Corporation. PECO serves 1.5 million electric and 460,000 natural gas customers in southeastern Pennsylvania. In 2003, its sales exceeded 36,753 gigawatt hours (gWh) of electricity and 92.3 billion cubic feet of natural gas to residential, business and institutional customers. PECO’s energy delivery services generated $4.38 billion in revenue for Exelon. PECO is one of the largest employers and most active corporate citizens in the Greater Philadelphia Region.

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