An IDC Energy Insights study reveals that around two in every three European utilities use social media for business purposes or plan to do so in the short term, compared with 48% a year earlier.
The study also highlights that further expansion in the social media space is one of the top 3 customer experience investment priorities that European utility suppliers are already involved in or expect to undertake in the next few months.
Key findings from the study include:
- Energy retailers believe that driving their presence across many communication channels such as corporate websites, dedicated mobile apps, and social media is the most important factor in achieving superior customer experience.
- Utilities in the U.S., many of which still operate in non-competitive markets, seem to be more conservative in the establishment of a social media presence. Over two-thirds either do not consider deploying social enterprise initiatives or are still at a research stage, although penetration of social business improves with company size.
- Utilities are still mostly using the larger social media space as a one-way communication channel, while social networks serve relatively basic purposes such as gathering simple metrics, building brand awareness, and non-systematic handling of inquiries.
- More complex, value-generating uses of social networks are already in the pipeline (i.e., customer feedback and idea generation, building formal social marketing plans, systematic presence, and SLAs for customer management), while some others need more incubation.
- However, utilities are gradually moving to the next step, from customer information to engagement in the social space. Survey data indicates consensus among utility retailers that the use of social media, along with gamification initiatives, holds the biggest potential in terms of customer engagement.
- When it comes to leveraging social network data for reputation management, only one in five European energy suppliers say they monitor external social networks and run social sentiment analysis to measure their customers’ experience.
- While 67% of European utilities say they use social networks to “manage relationships with customers and prospects,” only 53% “respond to customer questions or complaints” using that channel.
“Utilities are still mostly using the larger social media space as a one-way communication channel, while social networks serve relatively basic purposes such as gathering simple metrics, building brand awareness, and non-systematic handling of inquiries,” said Jean-François Segalotto, senior research analyst, IDC Energy Insights. “While 67% of European utilities say they use social networks to manage relationships with customers and prospects, only 53% respond to customer questions or complaints using that channel.”