customer communications

Social Media Best Practices for Water Utilities

By Avril Dalin

social_media_blog-01In today's day and age, social media has left no industry untouched. Every brand, company, product, city, and movement has a social media presence. It's changed the way we interact with the world and the way we receive information. Social media provides businesses the opportunity to build their brand, nurture customer relationships, and share information in a rapid and cost effective manner. JD Power’s 2018 study has shown that employing multiple channels of communication leads to an increase in satisfaction rates of 14.8% among utility customers. These are benefits the water industry cannot afford to leave untapped, especially with 79% of American adults present online and with customer engagement and satisfaction becoming bigger priorities for utilities. Thankfully, with proper planning and preparation, social media might just be the missing piece to a successful total customer engagement strategy.

 

Fostering Positive Feedback
To get the most out of social media, utilities must have clearly defined goals to guide the type of content that will be shared on their preferred platform. This will also determine how success will be measured and how active a utility will be online. When engaging your community, providing timely and relevant information should always be top of mind. This will give you the advantage to have more control of how customers talk about your utility.
 
For example, high bills are the number one reason for customer complaints. Bill confusion can be caused by leaks, rate increases, and a lack of understanding of general water use – particularly irrigation. But, your utility can get ahead and avoid these with a bill explainer for customers to resolve questions on their own. In addition to educating customers on their personal usage, online payment options can also increase operational efficiency and save time for your staff. You can then use social media to promote these solutions in a regular cadence to familiarize customers with them. By adopting an approach that puts self-service solutions front and center, you will be able to shift conversations in your community from discussing bill amounts to applauding the utility's excellent customer service. 
 
Getting your Customers To Take Action
You can also advertise any ongoing and upcoming programs through social media. This is a an easy way to spread the word without having to extensively mobilize resources for outreach efforts. It is the perfect platform to make general announcements to the entirety of your customer base. You can then follow-up with targeted messages to specific customers with personalized action items to increase participation. 
 
For instance, maybe it's raining today and customers aren't suppose to water their lawns for the next 48 hours. You can share a post advising your customers to turn off their sprinklers and refrain from watering outdoors. Simultaneously, you can send targeted messages to previously non-compliant customers with more details about the regulation along with their previous watering behavior(s), and urge them to join their neighbors in this effort. Implementing this strategy ensures your message does not get missed. In complementing general announcements with targeted and personalized messaging, you create urgency for your customers thus nudging them to do the right thing. 
 
Shaping Customer-to-Utility Communication 
Your social media activity does not have to be one directional. This can become a source of information for your team. Customers can post photos or tips on potential broken water mains and/or leaks without needing to wait on hold over the phone or physically show-up in person at your office. This can help utility staff members know exactly what caused the problem and determine the fastest way to repair. Again, these are the perfect times for you to respond back with self-service solutions and any other insight that can be helpful for the situation. In case of potential service interruption, you can also quickly notify customers with dynamically customizable messages using Group Messenger.
 
Social media can also foster stronger bonds and a sense of community. You can encourage customers to share photos of them taking part in your events. You can start a hashtag for specific programs or for customers to show appreciation to specific staff members they've recently had spectacular interactions with. Who doesn't love giving and receiving compliments? This is a great way for you to surface and drive positive sentiments for your utility. 
 
With these best practices in mind, you should feel confident that your social presence will piece together the puzzle to boosting customer engagement and satisfaction at your utility!

Posted in customer communications, customer engagement, self-service, group messenger, bill explainer, digital transformation

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