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Truly Meeting Customers Where They Demand It - Social Media

Posted by Channing Sizemore

Using social media to reach utilities customersHi, I’m a millennial, I’m multitasking and I’d rather you not call me. I don’t like it. I have a quiet voice so you will inevitably ask me to repeat myself… especially my name. It’s a hard name which is why I prefer email. When I email my utility company, their automatic reply asks me to call their customer service team. This, as a young consumer, drives me crazy. If my initial preferred communication method is email, it’s because I want to communicate with you over email. If I ask you a question on Facebook, please answer me there too.

It’s hard for a utility to engage with younger consumers, because their technological infrastructures tend to limit their innovation, but according to Pew Research, about 79% of online Americans use Facebook. As the millennial aged user starts to grow, they increasingly expect brands to have a Facebook presence as well. Communicating with brands through social media is mobile and unobtrusive, so it’s no surprise this is where many young consumers want to go to engage and ask for help. However, some utility companies have a difficult time with social media.

It used to be that customers only became interested in their utility company when their electricity stopped working. However, customers are not flocking to social media to report outages; instead they are asking intelligent questions about the difference between lumens and Kelvins, how programmable thermostats work and where to plant a shade tree, which should be ideal. A company that pushes energy-saving education should be thrilled when people desire more information. Comments and questions prove that content is engaging, but many utilities just see it as more work. And it is. You are educating and building relationships, which requires two-way communication.

So what can utility companies do to improve communication on social media?

  1. Response Time

    Social media is not a M-F, 9-5 job. Utilities will get questions on the weekends about broken HVACs, and customers expect you to respond in a timely manner. What is “in a timely manner”? According to The Social Habit, 32% of customers who contact a brand via social expect a response within 30 minutes. 42% expect a response within 60 minutes.
  2. Be on Brand
    
You will get dozens of the same questions and you may be tempted to simply shoot back a short reply. But by not thanking them or using your brand’s tone, you’re saying their question, and therefore the relationship, isn’t worth the time.
  3. Facebook Messenger Bots
    
Perhaps you don’t have the resources to respond to your customers on social. Well, Facebook stepped up to help. Say hello to Twyla (video below), Facebook’s new chatbot that allows companies to pre-program responses into the Messenger app to encourage conversations and questions.

According to a Nielson survey, in the next two years, 76% of people using chat apps will expect to communicate with businesses in these apps. So do your customers frequently ask how they can schedule a home assessment? Program the steps into the bot to save customer service time, improve response time and increase satisfaction.

If your customers are engaging with your content on social media, don’t ask them to chase you to find the answers, meet them where we already know they are.

(To learn more about VI's Social Media Services, click here)

Category: Utilities  Social Media
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