Public Utilities Get Smarter And Give-In To Customers

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A new report by Pike Research shows that customers have been increasing their demand for communication with public utility providers via social networking. It is estimated that about 57 million customers engaged their providers via social networking in 2011, and experts predict the number will reach 624 million by the end of 2017. More and more customers are using social media to help resolve issues and gather information. As many of you may know, contacting any utility provider over the phone can be time consuming and frustrating so this trend makes good sense. We are all busy, who wants to spend 45 minutes on the phone with the electric company going through menus and pre-recorded messages?

Senior Analyst at Pike Research, Neil Strother comments on the Phenomenon:

“For many people social media has emerged as a useful way to engage with their utilities, and somewhat surprisingly these customers are doing so on a fairly frequent basis, as our survey data shows,”

“Most of these customers are younger adults under 30 who have embraced social media as their preferred communication tool. Utility managers should have some strategy in place for listening to and engaging with customers via these newer channels like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.”

The research comes from responses of over 1000 users polled via an online survey in fall 2011. Over 80% of the people who reported using social media to resolve issue regarding utility providers were under the age of 30. Not a big surprise. Younger people view the business world much differently than our older peers who have experienced more of life without social networking and internet communication. We demand results faster and see limited use for antiquated phone menus and outdated forms or procedures.

Essentially social media has the potential to make real-time interaction between customer and provider more likely. This can represent a huge opportunity for those in the business to entice new customers, go above and beyond for existing customers and ultimately re-shape the industry as we know it. Interestingly, positive comments on social networking sites about utility providers outrank negative ones by more than two (25.7%) to one (11%).

So as this trend continues to grow we should expect utility providers to become more customer friendly and more accessible. I for one would be happy to not wait on hold any longer listening to long drawn-out messages and navigating menus that never seem to take me where I want to go. It seems like it's damn near impossible to reach a real person at any of these companies anymore. I'm ready for a change now.

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