You’re a big, bright utility company, and you’ve often been squeezed by rising costs, aging infrastructure, and regulatory concerns. But one thing you rarely worried about was customers. They were just there. However, now the landscape is changing and consumers have a choice. How will you meet evolving demands and differentiate your company to win business? Increasingly, the path to gaining and retaining market share comes from sharpening your focus on the customer experience.

“The customers of utilities are also the customers of other companies. Their expectations have been shaped by their overall interactions across all different industries and products, and they take that with them when they interact with utilities.”

Steven Ramirez, CEO, Beyond the Arc

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How well do you understand your customers and what they experience through every touch point with your company? Your customer experience encompasses the entire lifecycle from the buying journey through their ongoing relationship with your business. To attract customers, increase satisfaction, and reduce churn, your marketing agenda should center on building stronger relationships – and one powerful strategy is effective social media engagement.

The power of social media

A cost-effective and highly visible way for utility companies to showcase their value and demonstrate their focus on customer experience is through social media. In 2011, more than 57 million customers engaged with their utility providers in social networks, a number that could rise to nearly 625 million by 2017.

  • Build brand advocacy with immediate engagement
    Consumers now demand the immediacy of digital interactions with any business, and their expectations are even higher when their core functional needs like heat and electricity are at stake. That’s where social media can make or break a relationship. According to one survey, only 35% of utilities address complaints on social media. Rather, the majority of utility companies use social media merely for self-promotion. But you’ll reap far greater rewards if you leverage social networks to deepen engagement with customers. If you pay close attention to customer needs, and nurture positive sentiment by keeping people informed and reassured, you may be surprised at how quickly you build brand advocates.
  • Increase emotional connection to your brand
    During hurricane season and winter blizzards when power outages are especially upsetting to customers, proactive communications and real-time updates from their utility provider can help calm concerns and demonstrate empathy to “humanize” the business.

A growing number of utility leaders are taking to social media, addressing not only service issues but working to increase community engagement with helpful content.

Investing in customer experience can increase profitability

Across many industries, businesses are learning that delivering more positive experiences across a wide range of customer interactions including social media is driving profitability. For utility companies, this trend presents an opportunity to engage customers in new ways, and build an energy partnership with customers. It’s an opportunity to look beyond the meter and create an interactive communication channel that is different from customer care centers and email communication.

Social media is an increasing part of day-to-day operations and customer interactions at utility companies. Social media is a platform that customers often take when traditional channels haven’t solved their problem. In the Age of the Customer, every utility company has the opportunity to be the brand of choice –and it starts by delivering a satisfying experience through everyday needs and moments that matter.