Most utility companies only have direct contact with individual customers if something goes wrong. This means that unlike other large organisations such as supermarkets or online retailers, a utility brand often has just one chance to impress customers with their service. Energy and water suppliers are looking to social media to build their reputation and raise their profile.

Driving engagement 

With limited direct interaction, the stakes are high for utility brands when dealing with customers. Utility companies with the best engagement put out useful, strategic content and key updates targeted by demographic. As their following grows organically, the company builds its reputation.

Increasingly, companies are directing queries and complaints to their social media team, who are often better resourced than traditional telephone helplines. However, managing a large team across the same social media account can bring its own challenges.

Managing tone 

Keeping the team on message is a part factor in maintaining reputation. A social media management system can help with this by giving the team access to ready-crafted responses to common questions, for example after an annual price rise. This keeps the brand tone consistent, and helps prevent rogue answers from damaging the business.

Enquiries can be assigned to dedicated teams to capitalise on specialist knowledge, streamlining the customer service process, or directing issues to a manager for sensitive handling.

To improve the customer experience in long-running conversations, a management system can also provide continuity by facilitating hand-over between different members of the team.

Improving speed, performance and insight 

Response speed is one of the most important factors in customer satisfaction – customers whose queries are answered promptly are more likely to feel valued than those left waiting. Successful utility companies use their management software to bring a three-pronged approach, to optimise response times and provide customers with a better service. They can use it to:

  1. Plan team workload effectively: by tracking volumes of inbound social traffic by hour and day 
  2. Prevent duplication of work: giving team members the ability to see which queries are being handled 
  3. Track quality and performance: by analysing individual response times, rates and edits to identify training needs 

Social listening 

Utilities often find that customers spend more time talking about them than to them. Knowing what customers are saying, and responding appropriately, is a key part of reputation management. Using a social listening tool to track ‘social mentions’ means that a utility company knows when to reach out to engage with a customer, and can resolve their issues there and then.

However, a common pitfall in taking a complaint out of the public sphere and into DMs comes if the customer service team is under resourced. Many large organisations have experienced the damaging effects of this, so utilities should take note when integrating social media into their customer service approach.

Operating in a crisis

Thankfully floods, gas leaks and power cuts are quite rare, but when they happen Utilities need to be prepared. It is not just the rapid increase in volumes on social media that can catch them off guard, but it is missing “cries for help” that could be life and death if not dealt with in a timely manner, especially when emergency in nature. For vulnerable people the cutting off of supply can be a matter of life and death. A medical oxygen concentrator loses power will cut off the much-needed air supply or a vulnerable person is unable to leave the house to get drinking water when the water supply has been cut off for emergency work. This is where having the right tools in place can ensure Utilities can operate in a crisis. Specialist social media management tools such as CrowdControlHQ allow Utilities firms to not only deal with the huge spike in activity, but will also highlight emergency items so they can be dealt with as a matter of priority.

To sum up… 

Without effective management of social media streams and social listening, a utility company is at risk of being the last to engage – or even worse – the last to know, when an issue arises. They can quickly lose customer trust, particularly when other water and energy brands are outperforming them. And with a lack of presence and oversight on social media, utility brands lay themselves open to a damaged reputation.

9 shining examples of utilities succeeding on social media

For inspiration on content, engagement and customer service from utility brands, the way it should be done, download our list of 9 Shining Examples Of Utilities Succeeding On Social Media.