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My son’s middle school principal blogs weekly about the events and happenings that are of interest or importance to the community.  And he tweets regularly about more immediate issues– such as why a bus might be running late–in order to keep parents (who are, ultimately, his customers) in the know. 

His use of social media has a great side benefit:  it instills confidence that he has his finger on the pulse of what’s going on inside those walls, and our kids’ best interests at heart. 

I expect that it also benefits him as well, making his job easier in the long run.

Via these media, he’s established his ‘brand,’ if you will, among a number of parents.  Some may feel like they have developed a sort of relationship with him…even if they have never met him in person (perhaps similar to my neighbor’s “relationship” with the celebrities on Dancing with the Stars).  And isn’t it much more likely that, when you know someone, you’ll approach that person differently if and when a conflict or problem arises?  Chances are, even though you don’t know them at all, you have still set expectations in your mind.

You don’t have to stretch much to see how this scenario relates to utilities.

2012—with Hurricane Isaac this summer and Hurricane Sandy this week—has given utilities ample opportunity to see how social media now impacts information shared among customers and the utility itself.  In the last 7 days, there were 4 million Tweets about Hurricane Sandy (#Sandy) according to Topsy.com. 

Digging a little deeper, you can see all the Tweets utilities sent to and received from customers before, during and after the storm.  Naturally, in times like this, many customer Tweets reflect frustration and anger.  But there were also positive Tweets, thanking the utilities for getting their power back on.

This brings us back to the idea of building relationships via social media…

What would motivate a customer to tweet something positive about their utility?  Spreading the good news to their neighbors, for sure.  But I suspect there is some gratitude, as well, toward the utility and the real people at the utility who helped them in a time of need.  In essence, there is a relationship being forged with every communication, every event and every expectation fulfilled or unfulfilled.

As utilities reshape their customer relationships, social media will be an important part of better engaging their customers.   Utilities can now monitor customer sentiment via technology such as NetBase (which I recently used myself during one of the presidential debates to monitor voter sentiment via their entertaining and insightful Election Mood Meter website).  But with that capability comes the question of how to leverage that information…integrating it with customer service, mobile technology and energy management capabilities to create a holistic customer engagement platform.

I’d like to leave you with some useful information.  And since I don’t know whether your child’s bus is running late or not, I’ll just share a link to a recent CS Week webcast that brings these ideas together, and shares what SAP has developed to provide for what we call “The New Customer Engagement.”

http://tinyurl.com/bqwchkn

Enjoy!

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  1. Alice Dawson

    Great post! It reminds me of an article I read by John Egan in the Managing Power eNewsletter (http://www.managingpowermag.com/govenment_and_regulatory/Utility-Customer-Satisfaction-A-Faith-Based-Initiative_165_p3.html).  One quote in there resonated with me and pertains directly to this week’s events with Sandy.  “If you want to get anything done at the PUC, you’d better have good, quality customer satisfaction”.  Leveraging social media to inform customers of outages, new rate information, etc. is a smart way to keep customers in-the-know.

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