Blackouts: Environmental Ruling Holds Potential for Far-Reaching Impact

By Steve Kiesner Director of National Accounts, Edison Electric Institute | May 04, 2010

Two events in August-the well publicized blackout and a less publicized environmental ruling-will - have a far-reaching impact on the ability of the power industry to serve its customers.

The 2003 Blackout

The August, 2003 blackout in the northeastern United States riveted the nation's attention on how important the electric transmission grid is in enabling utilities to serve their customers. Although the cause of the blackout is being investigated, one potentially positive result is the emphasis the blackout has placed on the need to modernize the grid.

Surging wholesale transactions and rising consumer demand for electricity have pushed the capabilities of the U.S. transmission system to its limits. At the same time, a number of factors actually discourage investment in transmission, including:

It is worth mentioning that electricity competition has been brought up as a culprit in the blackout. This question detracts attention from the need to develop a more robust U.S. transmission grid. Electrons follow the laws of physics. No matter what utility structure model exists-competitive, a mixed model or fully integrated-there must be adequate infrastructure in place and appropriate rules for reliable operation. Sufficient transmission capacity is a critical building block in all of the models. Without adequate transmission, none of the models will work.

EEI has long advocated the following policy proposals to help assure that the U.S. has the mandatory reliability standards and the electric transmission capacity it needs to go forward.

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Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.