By Carrie Tuck, Director of Business Development

Often, Exhibitors and Sponsors do not have time to sit in on conference sessions. The most fruitful events I attend as a Sponsor are the ones where I have time to sit alongside the attendees, as well as chat with prospects in the booth or at my table. Although AGENT511 caters to 4 different industry verticals, we tend to lean towards utility events more frequently since our software platforms are fine-tuned to meet the mission critical needs of utilities (I tried to get my boss to say yes to an Australian event but that didn’t work out in my favor!).

I landed in Chicago after an early morning flight only to pull up to a major strike in front of the Millennium Knickerbocker Hotel where the Utility Outage Communications Conference was being held. I can honestly say that walking through that picket line was a first. My initial thought was, “Oh this is going to be a doozy of a trip.” But Grant from EUCI was as helpful and jovial as he had been on our calls, our competitive sponsors were as pleasant as at previous events, and I was able to sit in on the educational sessions for the next two days even though AGENT511 was hosting a table.

Reflecting on key topics of a conference has several purposes for me. Generally, I use the knowledge to hone my marketing messages, also striving for ever-changing insights into the evolution of the industry. There will always be buzz words such as: innovative, blockchain, and smart cities, as well as lessons learned from major storms that affected the largest utilities in the past. Despite the redundant, but necessary topics, I am always pleased with industry thought leaders honing in on their pain points and offering expert opinions.

I’m not going to lie, I found the secret door on the 14th floor of the Knickerbocker pretty interesting because I am a history nerd, but putting Capone aside, let’s get down to the business of outage communications. Preference management, chatbots, analytics, outage reporting, two-way text, and storytelling were all major topics on the forefront of session discussions, but the overall theme was definitely Customer Experience.

As Hurricane Florence loomed over the early part of the week, Duke Energy’s Corporate Communications Manager gave a hurried presentation on Repowering Puerto Rico, having to forgo the rest of the conference to hop on a plane and get to work on her own crisis. In the week that followed, Duke became a perfect example of how important it is to maintain communications with customers, providing them with outage notifications, updates and restoration information on a consistent basis using every means possible (social media, news outlets, email, voice, and text) to enhance the safety of the communities it serves.

During the storm I followed Duke’s Twitter and found the most touching communications were those from its customers to Duke thanking their linemen for all their hard work, around the clock, in order to restore power as quickly as possible. To me, that is the perfect example of knowing that your customer is not only satisfied, but appreciative of a company’s service.