How Utilities Companies Can Implement Successful Social Media Strategies
Utility companies are always on the lookout for new and improved way to connect with their customers. Now that social media has risen in prominence the world of utilities is making its move to stay on the cutting edge of communication.
Social media allows utility companies to implement next generation customer service as well as create an image for themselves which is much more personal than they have in the past.
Among some examples:
Dominion Virginia Power has taken bold steps to use social media to address their customers.
They were voted top utility for social media use in a poll of companies across the nation. Dominion Virginia has created communities for its customers by using Facebook, where they have 31,000 fans, and Twitter, with 24,000 followers. Not only does this create a dialogue between the company and its customers, it allows for excellent customer service.
In the case of power outages or other events which require urgent notification, social media allows utility companies to communicate with their customers quickly and directly.
Not only are companies using Twitter as an emergency broadcast service, there are apps for mobile phones which have been specifically designed to give status updates on the utilities that people need to know about most.
In the case of an emergency power outage a customer can simply pull up their mobile phone app and receive all the information that they need in order to feel safe and comfortable.
Utility companies can also use video in order to connect with their customers through social media.
Videos created in order to communicate the desired company image can be very effective marketing tools when it comes to re-branding the utility industry.
The general image that the utility industry evokes with the younger generation is a stodgy industrial giant. However the increasing use of social media is beginning to change that picture.
Con Edison has been using social media in order to provide additional value to their customers.
They share tips with their customers about how to live greener lives as well as links to energy efficiency programs. This campaign is designed to help customers reduce their monthly bills as well as promote an ecologically friendly lifestyle.
They also dove right into the Twitter and Instagram scene by participating in Throwback Thursdays (#TBT) where they post a picture of a historic company figure or moment. Campaigns such as these can help companies create a positive image within communities.
By reaching out to customers via social media utility companies can not only provide better customer service, but also offer additional value to their customers through informational campaigns and entertaining video marketing.
As new trends emerge at a faster and faster pace utility companies can put themselves in a position to be on the leading edge by staying active in the social media communities that they are creating for their customers.
Ofwat allows retailers to raise prices from April
Retailers can recover a portion of excess bad debt by temporarily increasing prices from April 2022, according to an Ofwat statement.
The regulator confirmed its view that levels of bad debt costs across the business retail market are exceeding 2% of non-household revenue, thereby allowing "a temporary increase" in the maximum prices. Adjustments to price caps will apply for a minimum of two years to reduce the step changes in price that customers might experience.
Measures introduced since March 2020 to contain the spread of Covid-19 could lead to retailers facing higher levels of customer bad debt. Retailers’ abilities to respond to this are expected to be constrained by Ofwat strengthening protections for non-household customers during Covid-19 and the presence of price caps.
In April last year, Ofwat committed to provide additional regulatory protection if bad debt costs across the market exceeded 2% of non-household revenue.
Georgina Mills, Business Retail Market Director at Ofwat said: “These decisions aim to protect the interests of non-household customers in the short and longer term, including from the risk of systemic Retailer failure as the business retail market continues to feel the impacts of COVID-19. By implementing market-wide adjustments to price caps, we aim to minimise any additional costs for customers in the shorter term by promoting efficiency and supporting competition.”
There are also three areas where Ofwat has not reached definitive conclusions and is seeking further evidence and views from stakeholders:
- Pooling excess bad debt costs – Ofwat proposes that the recovery of excess bad debt costs is pooled across all non-household customers, via a uniform uplift to price caps.
- Keeping open the option of not pursuing a true up – For example if outturn bad debt costs are not materially higher than the 2% threshold.
- Undertaking the true up – If a 'true up' is required, Ofwat has set out how it expects this to work in practice.
Further consultation on the proposed adjustments to REC price caps can be expected by December.
"While it’s great that regulators are helping the industry deal with bad debt in the wake of the pandemic, raising prices only treats the symptoms. Instead, water companies should head upstream, using customer data to identify and rectify the causes of bad debt, stop it at source and help prevent it from occurring in the first place," she said.
"While recouping costs is a must, water companies shouldn’t just rely on the regulator. Data can help companies segment customers, identify and assist customers that are struggling financially, avoiding penalising the entire customer in tackling the cause of the issue."
United Utilities picks up pipeline award
A race-against-time plumbing job to connect four huge water pipes into the large Haweswater Aqueduct in Cumbria saw United Utilities awarded Utility Project of the Year by Pipeline Industries Guild.
The Hallbank project, near Kendal, was completed within a tight eight-day deadline, in a storm and during the second COVID lockdown last November – and with three hours to spare. Principal construction manager John Dawson said the project helped boost the resilience of water supplies across the North West.
“I think what made us stand out was the scale, the use of future technology and the fact that we were really just one team, working collaboratively for a common goal," he said.
Camus Energy secures $16m funding
Camus Energy, which provides advanced grid management technology, has secured $16 million in a Series A round, led by Park West Asset Management and joined by Congruent Ventures, Wave Capital and other investors, including an investor-owned utility. Camus will leverage the operating capital to expand its grid management software platform to meet growing demand from utilities across North America.
As local utilities look to save money and increase their use of clean energy by tapping into low-cost and low-carbon local resources, Camus' grid management platform provides connectivity between the utility's operations team, its grid-connected equipment and customer devices.