Social Media for Utilities: Developing a Satisfying Customer Experience


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By creating a dynamic and responsive social media presence, utilities can enhance customer interaction and influence key decisions, turning dissatisfied consumers into advocates.

Social Media for Utilities: Developing a Satisfying Customer Experience

  1. 1. • Cognizant 20-20 InsightsSocial Media for Utilities: Developinga Satisfying Customer ExperienceBy creating a dynamic and responsive social media presence,utilities can enhance customer interaction and influence keydecisions, turning dissatisfied consumers into advocates. Executive Summary Social Media Trends in Utilities Customer engagement continues to be among the Although the utility industry as a whole lags top concerns of utilities executives worldwide. As behind other industries in adopting social media, consumers flock to social networking platforms individual utilities remain intrigued by the such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn prospect. In the U.S, the use of social media among to connect with each other and with businesses of utilities is more established than in the UK and their choosing, utilities need to incorporate social Europe, where social media usage only recently media as part of their broader customer engage- started to take off. According to a Pike Research ment programs. Doing so will help improve the 2012 report, the top two reasons that customers current relationship that many utilities have with communicate with their utility providers through their customers.1 Today, however, most utilities are social media channels are billing issues and the taking a cautious approach to embracing social need to obtain information about a utility service media, as they fear the backlash of negative com- or program (see Figure 1, next page).2 mentary on these social forums. Many utilities have ventured into this space In this white paper, we demystify the progress that to discuss energy conservation and efficiency, forward-thinking utilities have made in using social customer education, branding and promotion, media to more effectively engage with their cus- and outages. Social media is gaining acceptance tomers. In our view, utilities that embrace social as a viable means of delivering vital communica- media will benefit from increased customer satis- tions, customer service issues and promotional faction. This paper offers a holistic perspective on offers. Other areas where utilities are using social social media strategy development, customer sen- media can be found in Figure 2, next page. timent analysis, tactical execution and monitoring, and integration with enterprise customer relation- Implementing a Social Media Program ship management (CRM). It also offers recom- We have developed a four-step approach to mendations for engaging with customers in more enable utilities to implement an effective social relevant ways and meeting their ever-increasing media program (see Figure 3, page 3). demand for two-way communication. cognizant 20-20 insights | january 2013
  2. 2. Social Media’s Emerging Consumer Imperatives Billing issue 31.5% Obtain information about utility service or programs 31.5% Praise about service 24.7% Service outage 19.2% Service issue other than outage 16.4% Schedule a new service installation 15.1% Complain about service 11.5% Other 6.8% 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 (Percent of respondents)Base: 73 U.S. consumersSource: “Social Media in the Utility Industry Consumer Survey,” Pike Research, Q1, 2012.Figure 1Step 1: Think Beyond the Meter plement to, not a replacement for, more tradition-Utilities need to look beyond the meter at the al channels, such as customer care, e-mail, onlinecustomer premises and create an interactive forums, interactive voice response systems, etc.communication channel through the use of social Social media connections can be driven throughmedia. Via social channels, utilities can begin to the following approaches:reconnect with customers by replying to issuesand responding to negative comments. The con- • Initiate conversations: Utilities should initiatenecting power of social media can act as a com- a two-way channel, with which they interactUtilities’ Social Media Priorities Description: Outage management and storm information is communicated in real Crisis time, such as on Twitter. Communication Examples: Dominion Virginia Power, Public Service of New Hampshire, Pepco Description: Educate customers through YouTube and Facebook on topics such as Customer recycling, renewable energy, energy efficiency, etc. Education Examples: Florida Power & Light, Xcel Energy, Nebraska Public Power District Description: Launch a social media Web site to serve customers through Facebook, Customer Twitter, YouTube, blogs, etc. Service Examples: Reliant Energy, Centrica, Kentucky Public Service Commission Description: Use of social media to engender energy saving behavior and educate Energy on climate change issues and energy efficiency methods. Efficiency Examples: Apps like Social Energy App, JouleBug, Facebook App Description: Platform for realizing the goal of demand response programs, which Demand encourage and incentivize customers to reduce demand during peak periods . Response Examples: Opower developed a Facebook app promoting an energy-saving competi- tion among friends. Description: Market-renewable energy service options, tapping the younger Green Energy generation for green energy and carbon offset programs. Promotion Examples: Duke Energy, Public Service of New Hampshire Description: Platforms to monitor utilities’ brand value and for marketing-related activities. Branding Examples: Nebraska Public Power District has created a Facebook page to use for branding purposes. Description: Use of LinkedIn to advertise positions and recruit employees. Recruitment Examples: Southern California Edison, Xcel Energy, Progress EnergySource: Various industry reports 3Figure 2 cognizant 20-20 insights 2
  3. 3. Four-Step Plan create a “word-of-mouth” following. To enable this, utilities need to enlist their employees and influencers to help create and distribute 1 key messages. Tools that allow amplification Think Beyond include: the Meter >> GaggleAMP, a platform that allows compa- nies to amplify their social messaging by leveraging employees, customers and part- 4 Approach to 2 ners. Integrate Implement Tap Social Social Media with CRM Social Media Media Analytics >> SocialToaster, which helps recruit support- Program ers to automatically create word-of-mouth referrals and traffic through Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. 3 Transform Customer >>, a Twitter-only tool that allows Engagement individuals to promote campaigns and blog posts.4 A simple analysis of the strengths, weaknesses,Figure 3 opportunities and threats (SWOT) will help utili- ties understand the importance of analyzing not only with meters but also directly with social media (see Figure 4, next page). Utilities customers. New programs and features can should perform a detailed SWOT analysis based be easily communicated informally among on their particular business strategy and priori- customers, with the help of functions such as ties. the “like” feature on Facebook. Twitter can Step 2: Tap Social Media Analytics, Monitor be used as a communications medium with Customer Sentiments customers during outages and other crises, such as conveying storm information. Utilities can act on the derived intelligence obtained from the multiplying pools of unstruc-• Drive conversations: One of the most tured social media data to improve business important aspects of blogging is to build results, increase brand awareness and polish their a community in which utilities experts can reputations. They can achieve these goals by answer customer questions. Utilities experts responding to and managing crises and outages, can provide advice and information on smart communicating energy efficiency programs and meter advantages and capabilities, electric engaging in initiatives such as online cross-sell- vehicle charging tips, reducing energy con- ing and marketing, customer satisfaction and sumption, insulation, energy efficiency, power advocacy. Utilities can also use sophisticated ana- reliability, outage reduction information, etc. A lytics tools to harness the power of social data, rapid response can turn disgruntled customers although such tools are in the early stages. into ambassadors for the utility. Moreover, because these interactions occur on social Making Sense of the Noise media, it’s open for the public to see, which can For utilities adopting a social media analytics enhance the company’s reputation for trans- strategy, it is imperative to evaluate the maturity parency and responsiveness. of social media usage across different business• Spread conversations: Utilities can create a units within the organization. This requires a con- social mashup, a simple Web-based application sultative approach, with a detailed assessment that combines content and functionality from of present-state social media adoption maturity, a variety of sources through highly compatible capabilities for adopting new technologies, a and simply installed Web plug-ins. This perspective on implementation feasibility and a approach ensures a continuous information close assessment of budgetary constraints. The feed that alerts customers to tips for reducing real value of social media can be derived from energy consumption, using smart appliances, integrating real-time insights from unstructured restoring power and other related information. data with enterprise business intelligence and customer relationship management platforms to• Amplify conversations: Social media enables advance proactive decision-making. companies to re-distribute messages and cognizant 20-20 insights 3
  4. 4. Sample SWOT Analysis Favorable Unfavorable Strengths Weakness • Huge source of freely available information. • New mode of communication. • Proactive engagement with customers; faster • Requires urgent effort to mitigate negative Internal resolution of issues and queries. image and mistakes. • Real-time communication updates on energy • Return-on-investment is difficult to recognize. efficiency, product launches, crisis management. • Requires a dedicated team to look into • Improved relationship between utilities and customer grievances. customers. • Strengthened reputation for transparency and • Need to align social media strategy with legal and regulatory compliance. customer-friendliness. • Ability to listen and respond proactively ahead of • Risk of damaged brand image due to high exposure. customer trends. • Risks associated with security, privacy and External • Ability to measure customer pulse informally and ethics. analyze customer sentiments. • Increased online cross-selling opportunities. • Easier exploration into new markets, such as Internet-savvy customer segments. Opportunities ThreatsSource: CognizantFigure 4Utilities can derive value from the large amount 1. Identify and crawl social media sites and localof unstructured, free-form text driven by the con- consumer forums to capture relevant postsversations and sentiments (positive, negative and and filter out the non-relevant ones.neutral) expressed across various social mediaplatforms. This will help them align their customer 2. Listen and extract key information on productsengagement strategies by listening, monitoring and services, energy efficiency plans and newand acting in real-time to meet consumer require- services and symptoms, using algorithms,ments. Unstructured text includes comments clusters, filters and taxonomy.posted on social media platforms and other 3. Analyze and find relevance within businessblogging sites, customer care notes and customer contexts, relationships with company programssurvey responses. and issues using different analytical modelsFramework Development for Data Analysis and sentiment analysis.We have developed a social listening framework 4. Act and report business attributes and metricsto analyze and make sense of proliferating social on influence, sentiments, volume and demo-chatter. Using this framework, utilities can collect, graphics, etc. to derive actionable businessprocess and analyze data, as well as deliver insights.actionable business insights. Social listening andanalysis is performed on the information gathered 5. Integrate and monitor analyzed informationfrom social media, particularly from public pages, within the enterprise database for continuousforums, blogs, news, review sites, microblogs or insight and customer sociability.any publicly available data from social channels. Social business analysts at the command center6The framework encompasses a five-step method can then work closely with senior leaders withinfor generating social media data insights (see the utility to determine the business scenario,Figure 5, next page):5 industry scope and specific business cases to track, creating a “social pulse” for enterprise- cognizant 20-20 insights 4
  5. 5. Social Listening Analysis Framework Identify Listen Analyze Act Integrate • Scenario scope • Keywords list • Analytical models • Actionable insights • Establishment of and objectives > Opinion mining after aligning with command center • Domain taxonomy business • Source categorization > Early warning • CRM integration > Social networks • Data crawling system • Basic analytics and cleaning > Predictive modeling and metrics • Data supply chain > Blogs and microblogs > Professional • Filter data > Network mining • Periodic reporting • Advanced analytics and clusters and metrics networks • Churn analysis • Real-time > Forums • Algorithms dashboard • Industry benchmarks • Unusual occurrence • Source selection • Data indexing monitoring • Visualization • Documentation criteria • Querying and • Sentiment analysis search engine • Analytical tools and infrastructureSource: CognizantFigure 5wide analysis. The utility’s command center can utilities to maintain a lean customer care struc-use established processes to collect and analyze ture and reduce the overall cost to serve eachsocial media data relevant to the overall orga- customer. Using social media apps, utilities cannization. These processes can then be shared not only share messages in an extremely quickwith various business groups (sales, marketing, and cost-efficient manner, but they can also tailorcustomer service, etc.). messages to targeted customers. This creates a win-win situation for both utilities and consumers.Social Media Analytics DashboardTo become a socially-engaged organization, utili- Creating Customer Impact viaties need to understand and gain insights from Social Media Appssocial media through metrics, measurements, Utilities can develop a social media app for envi-sentiment analysis and analytics reporting. A ronments such as Facebook to motivate moresocial media analytics dashboard will inform customers to use online self-service channels,senior management on progress, strengths and acquire customers and solve issues related toweaknesses and then identify ways to improve. customer service. The app can enable two-wayLinking social media analytics to organization- communications between customers and thewide multi-channel analytics dashboards will utility, such as a bi-directional flow of customerprovide utilities with a complete arsenal of information from the consumer’s social mediabusiness intelligence. Figure 6, next page, illus- page to the utility’s page and vice versa (seetrates a sample list of metrics that utilities can Figure 7, page 7). Utilities can reap the followinguse to monitor their social media presence with benefits from such an app:respect to their products and launches.7 • Radically improve customer engagementStep 3: Transforming Customer Engagement through interactive “customer journeys,”8with the ’Utilities Connected App’ such as submitting meter reads, obtainingTo increase the adoption of online customer self- quotations, paying bills, sales, gatheringservice, forward-thinking utilities are proactively product and service knowledge, etc.providing information about outages, work resto- • Accelerate customer use of online channelsration times and emergency information on their (e.g., word-of-mouth spread through thesocial media and Web sites or through a mobile Facebook “like” feature) to perform necessaryapp. Doing so drastically reduces the volume of transactions, thereby increasing the onlinecustomer phone calls and e-mails, thus allowing penetration of the utility’s customer base. cognizant 20-20 insights 5
  6. 6. Social Media Measurement Metrics Utilities Social Analytics Key Performance Indicators Basic Analytics Advanced Analytics (KPIs) Number of billing-related Number of estimated billing- Share of voice (SOV) = conversations Share of voice (SOV) = related conversations Total number of utilities Total number of billing-related conversations mentions Billing Sentiment indicator Awareness Sentiment analysis = positive (%), negative (%) and neutral (%) Facebook (Positive conversations – negative conversations) comments, Twitter mentions, (Positive conversations + negative conversations) blogs, conversations. Trend analysis: Customer pulse on billing exception and meter reading accuracy trends. Social reach = Total number of customers EE program launch analysis: across all social platforms • By campaign conversing on energy efficiency • Per specific social platform (e.g. Twitter, Facebook) Energy (EE) programs • Per specific post Efficiency Number of likes + number Social campaign ROI of social media Program of shares + number of blog cost /benefit analysis = campaigns Effectiveness EE program launch = comments ROI of traditional EE Number of published posts marketing campaigns for utility company Growth = month-over-month, quarter-over-quarter Churn rate = number of customers changing Social CRM and enterprise CRM integration: utilities • Integrate social media customer data with enterprise ERP/CRM applications. Customer Complaint visibility and feedback = • Proactive issue resolution: Mine customer social Ability of marketing department or customer posts to identify issues discussed and respond Satisfaction service executives to respond to issues raised appropriately. by customers in social channels. • Continuous monitoring: Text and sentiment analysis of social posts of customers.Source: CognizantFigure 6• Provide insights that enable customers to >> Build a positive community of customers compare their power usage with that of their through the “like” feature of Facebook. peers with similar living spaces and area zones or to compare rebate programs and heating/air >> Use Facebook apps to provide access to in- formation from around the Web. conditioning services from different utilities, etc. >> Create content tailored to customer needs.• Reduce dependency on traditional customer service agents, thus lowering the service • Online account management: center’s overhead costs. >> Account overview and summary.• Cutthe cost-to-serve per customer in the >> Energy consumption graphs and analysis. emerging digital age. >> Communication channels (SMS messaging,Basic features of a Facebook app include: e-mail, Web chat, etc.).• Brand-building: >> Crisis event notification and alerts. >> Use the social media app to “humanize” the >> Proactive energy efficiency tips. brand. • Sales: >> Respond to customer queries and be open >> Get quotes for new customers or plan to feedback as a responsible and account- change quotes. able utilities service provider. cognizant 20-20 insights 6
  7. 7. Features of a Facebook App maturity and, most importantly, on the way it manages customers. Integrating CRM and social media data should be about converting conversa- tions into transactions. It is about going beyond Facebook, Twitter and other social nd Building Bra media channels and finding ways Integrating CRM to enter into a boundaryless world, where customers are in control of and social media the conversation. 9 data should be Management Sales and Cou • Analyze the conversation data: about converting Account poning Listen to and understand conversations into unstructured conversations from transactions. consumers. • Understand the social presence of custom- B illi n g a n d ers: Gather information on customers’ social P ay m e nts media presence and create a social map of their details within the CRM system and mar- keting database.Figure 7 • Define the social media strategy: Define how the social media strategy aligns with organi- zational goals and objectives through people, >> Cross-selling opportunities for existing cus- processes and technologies. tomers. >> Product and tariff management. • Operationalize the social media plan: Establish a social media roadmap based on the >> Online promotional activities, such as loy- requirements and processes. Utilities need to alty programs, etc. consider these three levers: >> Share interesting and customized posts >> People: Culture, skills, training, planning rather than generic sales offers. policies, governance, etc.• Billing and payments: >> Process: Organizational processes, such as >> Respond and solve billing issues. marketing, sales, customer service, knowl- >> View billing and other online statements. edge management, human resources, cus- tomer data management, etc. >> Bill notification to customers. >> Make payment feature. >> Technologies: Content management, inte- gration, infrastructure, analytics, software, >> Direct debit-enabling feature. specific use cases, etc.Step 4: Integrating Social Media with CRMWe live in a business world that is increasingly • Prepare traditional CRM to be ready for social media: Upgrade and modify the workflow,focused on improving the customer experience. processes, rules, data structure, training, callOne of the best ways to do this is to leverage center, people, etc. with existing CRM systemsexisting customer insights by integrating social to enable more effective integration with socialdata with transactional and structured data con- data.tained within enterprise CRM systems. • Manage organizational change management:Utilities can use social CRM to streamline and Create a social business change managementimprove customer communications. This will plan and involve customer-facing departmentscreate opportunities to address customer churn like marketing, human resources, branding andand retain brand image in a competitive and dereg- promotion, etc. to align common goals.ulated market. Further, it will help them to stream-line and improve customer communications. • Integrate with existing CRM systems: Finally, integrate social data with the CRM database, along with social analytics tools, to spotSteps to Integrate CRM and Social Media Data negative comments and work with the businessThe steps needed to integrate social media with to design quick-response capabilities to protectCRM data depend on the organization’s CRM brand reputation. cognizant 20-20 insights 7
  8. 8. Risk and Mitigation Strategy to create a social media policy for employees, senior management and contractors; continue toIn this digital world, communications channels track basic social media performance indicators;have greatly changed, while the regulatory obli- monitor social conversations; and address issuesgations of utilities across various geographies when they occur.have remained the same. Therefore, it’s neces-sary for companies to be accustomed to both the Utilities should implement a proactive socialopportunities for and the regulatory concerns media listening program and generate timelyposed by social media. reports for their marketing departments so they can detect negative comments and engage withEmbracing social media poses risks for utilities; them before they influence overall market senti-however, companies should not avoid the inevi- ment. To do this, utilities need to design a syn-table. A risk mitigation strategy can alleviate chronized event-response center to educate cus-the impact of negative events and other risks, tomers on relevant facts and information on theirbased on internal organizational strengths (see various initiatives. At the enterprise level, this willFigure 8).10 be achieved by integrating social media with CRMSocializing the Plan strategies. Thus, utilities would be wise from the get-go to create risk mitigation plans and utilizeCustomers are choosing social media platforms to social tools and techniques to portray a new,interact with brands of choice and for assistance transparent, innovative and customer-friendlyon products and services. Given this social shift brand customer mind-set, it is imperative for utilitiesPlaying by the Rules Known Risks Risk Mitigation Strategy A proper response protocol should be in place as part of the social media strategy. Negative comments should be handled by the appropriate departments, such as mar- Negative keting, branding, human resources, business solutions (smart meters, energy efficiency, Comments demand response, etc.). Proper monitoring mechanisms need to be in place to delete offensive and inappropriate comments. If proprietary or personal information needs to be shared (such as account details, billing Privacy Risks issues, etc.), utilities should encourage customers to interact offline with utilities or customer care executives. Utilities should have proper software protections and firewalls in place to protect utilities’ Data Security social media sites, such as blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Utilities’ marketing teams should examine information posted on social media sites (as Updated part of the social media strategy) to ensure that customers are provided with the latest Information information. Utilities should abide by proper Web site crawling guidelines (such as robots.txt guidance) Legal Risks and should not crawl and analyze personal customer information obtained via social media platforms. Utilities should provide adequate anti-fraud training to managers and employees to ensure Fraud Risks appropriate social media usage and to identify and respond to fraudulent activities.Figure 8 cognizant 20-20 insights 8
  9. 9. Footnotes1 “The Rise of Smart Customers,” Ernst & Young, 2011, Rise_of_smart_customers_-_What_the_sector_thinks/$FILE/The_rise_of_smart_customers_What_the_ sector_thinks.pdf. The survey shows 75% of respondents reported a negative relationship with their energy supplier, and none rated the relationship as positive.2 “Social Media in the Utility Industry: Consumer Survey,” Pike Research, 2012.3 R.P. Siegel, “Top Utilities Reaching Out With Social Media,” TriplePundit, March 7, 2012, Matthew Burks, “Top Utilities Using Social Media,” Esource, July 10, 2012, Mike Breslin, “Social Media and Utilities,” Intelligent Utility Magazine, July/August 2009, Christopher Perdue, “Utilities Facing Up to Social Media,” EnergyBiz, June 26, 2011, David A. Schweidel, Wendy W. Moe and Chris Boudreaux, “Social Media Intelligence: Measuring Brand Sentiment from Online Conversations,” Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland, June 2012, Dr. Freimut Bodendorf, “Social Media Analytics,” Institute of Information Systems, University of Erlan- gen-Nuremberg, January 2011, A command center is a monitoring and analysis center in which utilities can track the “social pulse” of customers for enterprise-wide analysis. It uses standard frameworks and processes to collect and analyze conversations, obtain competitive insights and extract customer sentiments. The resulting social media analysis can be passed on to different business groups. The command center engagement model setup can be accomplished through partnerships, joint ventures, managed services and other evolving business models.7 Marshall Sponder, “Tracking Social Media ROI Viewing Spectrum Analytics,” Webmetricsguru, Sept. 5, 2010, A customer journey is a map in the form of a diagram or writeup that illustrates the steps customers undergo when engaging with utilities for products and services, including the online experience, sales, new product launches or any other combination. It represents the different touchpoints that characterize customer interaction with the service provided by the utility.9 Chet Geschickter and Zarko Sumic, “Social Media Provides Utilities a New Channel for Customer Engagement,” Gartner, Inc., March 19, 2012.10 Carolyn Elefant, “The Power of Social Media: Legal Issues and Best Practices for Utilities Engaging Social Media,” Energy Law Journal, Vol. 32, No. 1, 2011, Social-Media-Legal-Issues-and-Best-Practices-for-Utilities-Engaging-Social-Media. cognizant 20-20 insights 9
  10. 10. About the AuthorsDebasish Bera is a Senior Consultant within the Energy and Utilities Practice of Cognizant BusinessConsulting. He has 10 years of energy and utilities industry experience in consulting, business analysis,business development and operations and has delivered consulting engagements with several largeglobal organizations. His areas of interest include smart metering, energy management, analytics, assetmanagement and energy services. He holds a master’s of business administration degree in operationsmanagement from SPJIMR, Mumbai, in India. Debasish can be reached at Goel is a Consultant within the Energy and Utilities Practice of Cognizant Business Consulting.He has more than seven years of experience working with leading energy and utilities organizations andis responsible for consulting, business solutions, package evaluation and solution design. He holds anundergraduate degree in mathematics from Delhi University and a master’s of business administrationdegree in oil and gas. Saurabh can be reached at CognizantCognizant (NASDAQ: CTSH) is a leading provider of information technology, consulting, and business process out-sourcing services, dedicated to helping the world’s leading companies build stronger businesses. Headquartered inTeaneck, New Jersey (U.S.), Cognizant combines a passion for client satisfaction, technology innovation, deep industryand business process expertise, and a global, collaborative workforce that embodies the future of work. With over 50delivery centers worldwide and approximately 150,400 employees as of September 30, 2012, Cognizant is a member ofthe NASDAQ-100, the S&P 500, the Forbes Global 2000, and the Fortune 500 and is ranked among the top performingand fastest growing companies in the world. Visit us online at or follow us on Twitter: Cognizant. World Headquarters European Headquarters India Operations Headquarters 500 Frank W. Burr Blvd. 1 Kingdom Street #5/535, Old Mahabalipuram Road Teaneck, NJ 07666 USA Paddington Central Okkiyam Pettai, Thoraipakkam Phone: +1 201 801 0233 London W2 6BD Chennai, 600 096 India Fax: +1 201 801 0243 Phone: +44 (0) 20 7297 7600 Phone: +91 (0) 44 4209 6000 Toll Free: +1 888 937 3277 Fax: +44 (0) 20 7121 0102 Fax: +91 (0) 44 4209 6060 Email: Email: Email:©­­ Copyright 2013, Cognizant. All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, transmitted in any form or by anymeans, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the express written permission from Cognizant. The information contained herein issubject to change without notice. All other trademarks mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners.