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Outsmarting a Power Outage through Technology and Training

DTE has invested in training and improving their customer communication experience enabling them to persevere through the largest weather-related outage in their history.

In the wake of what was proclaimed the largest weather-related outage in DTE Energy’s history, a record-breaking 800,000 businesses and residential customers in Metro Detroit were left without power. On top of the power outage, they saw 12,000 lines down, and 1,200 broken utility poles. For homeowners, it meant freezing cold nights and having to toss food – and for businesses, it meant no business at all. It was a high-stakes situation, and all eyes were on DTE.

Remarkably, DTE restored power to a record number of homes and facilities in a safe and streamlined manner. Due to DTE’s recent efforts, such as investing in training and improving their customer communication experience, DTE persevered during this historic outage. So, how did they do it? And what tips can other utility companies take from DTE?

Take advantage of modern technology for training

DTE is leading the way in training, making use of a high-consequence virtual reality (VR) training program to enable technicians to train in real-world situations without exposing them to the dangers of the field. Using VR, businesses with employees in life-and-death scenarios (utility workers, doctors, pilots, first responders, etc.) can train their people without actually putting them in harm’s way. Vectorform is DTE’s innovation partner, working to develop next-generation field technician training through the “Virtual Reality High Consequence Training Program.” Technicians experience total immersion through realistic graphics, high fidelity interactions, and an intuitive control scheme. However, this type of technology can be applied in a wide variety of industries to train for any dangerous scenario.

Communicate with customers constantly

With so many people out of power, DTE’s website was inundated with people looking for updates. But with DTE’s commitment to technology, the DTE Energy and DTE Insight mobile applications communicated updates on the status of their power. DTE engaged Vectorform to create the DTE Insight app, which allows users to view energy usage patterns and consumption in real-time, receive an estimate of their monthly operating costs, set goals for energy saving, and more. Thanks to the DTE Energy app, customers were kept up to date on their power situation, reducing call volumes, and allowing the company to focus on restoring power quicker.

Encourage innovation and continually improve

Utility companies are notorious for being slow to change, but DTE understands that it needs to encourage innovation and continually improve if it wants to stay relevant. DTE is making strides to promote innovation within the company, encouraging employees to make change and set the company up for future success. Vectorform has been working with DTE as their innovation consultancy, conducting workshops to help DTE think outside the box and perform at a higher level. Without a forward-thinking focus on new technologies and opportunities, companies that settle on the status quo are going to be left in the dust.

With innovative digital tools and a whatever-it-takes culture that spans the entire enterprise, DTE set a new precedent for utility companies, reacting in a safe and timely fashion. Their investment in smart technologies and effective training was critical to their success in this scenario. And while anyone could argue that there’s always room for improvement, only the most motivated are brave enough to improve.

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