October 2012. Even as Hurricane Sandy placed its signature as one of the most destructive hurricanes, New Jersey-based Public Service Enterprise Group’s (PSEG) use of Twitter became an award-winning example of social media for crisis communication. A year later, as three major winter storms hit the UK in quick succession, UK Power Networks effectively used their Twitter account to direct inquiries from the call center to their website and dramatically improved call center response time. The Christmas storm was reported to have generated a staggering 103 million Twitter impressions. In August 2014, when Hurricane Iselle hit the Hawaii islands, Hawaiian Electric took recourse to Instagram as part of its online communication effort.

Text Analytics — Unleashing Social Data Intelligence

The key to mining intelligence data from social channels is to listen carefully to online conversations and track the continuous and unstructured flow of data. It involves applying social media analytics to gauge sentiments and analyzing them for actionable insights.

Specifically, text analytics unlocks significant value through sentiment analysis, theme extraction, mood analysis, early warning signals and root-cause analysis. Energy and Utility (E&U) companies can then create personalized customer experiences, make more responsive business decisions and accurately calculate the return on investment for specific marketing campaigns.

Application of Text Analytics for E&U Companies

For E&U companies, there is certainly a strong and different energy pulsing through the internet grid. Social media, they have discovered, entwines communication and customer engagement. They are also realizing that it presents a strong opportunity to focus on the four vital areas of crisis management, customer service, customer education and conservation promotion, and if handled prudently, can result in many benefits.

Crisis Management

For E&U companies, social media can be effectively used to offer early warning signals for tackling situations such as asset-breakdowns, outages, scheduling engineer visits, advanced extreme weather notifications, issuing advisories and notifications for crisis management.

Customer Service

Social media raises the bar to a whole new level of customer engagement and reputation management. For E&U customers, social media is now becoming the preferred source of conversation where they share their views and inquire about their utility service, besides reporting outages. And herein lies the reality; E&U companies can choose to participate in the conversations and sway the commentary in their favor or allow negative opinions to go viral.

Understanding online trends and public sentiment have important business implications for E&U companies that are in the public eye every minute of the day. From direct mentions to comments in a forum, there are vast and unstructured quantities of ‘social data’ produced by networks. When mined right and integrated with the customer relationship managementsystem, this can be a gold mine for improving customer service and understanding customer sentiment.

Customer Education

Besides information dissemination, social media can be an effective platform for E&U companies to place their thought leadership signature and help the public understand vital issues at stake. An integrated cross-channel interaction strategy helps companies to create awareness among consumers like knowing where to go for support services.

Conservation Promotion

While social media is a good tool to resolve customer complaints and improve customer satisfaction levels, of greater consequence is its powerful possibility to champion relevant causes. Take clean energy and conservation for example. With climate change gaining high focus and momentum, it is time for E&U companies to create a strong social buzz around these critical topics.

Powering Ahead With Social Media

Social media has undoubtedly become a primary source of contact for many utility companies, and is proving to be an increasingly vital medium for improving customer satisfaction. E&U companies need to quickly realize that their absence on social media platforms will not stop people from sharing their views and establishing a reputation for them. In fact, it would behoove them to proactively leverage the advantages of this media and raise their customer engagement to a whole new level — be it customer service, customer education, crisis management or championing causes such as climate change.

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