In the last year Massive PR has been working with a number of local and national energy and utility companies. Our task; to resolve what seems to be a widespread weakness in reputation management and online public relations resulting in lower conversions and a poor online image.
The Traditional Energy Approach
It is not uncommon for utility companies to have somewhat of a “traditional model” of business and PR. The formation of a utility or energy company is primarily through an infrastructure which does not require online searches like most other businesses and products. Utility companies either have a monopoly within a state or region or a limited number of competitors with distributed client volumes.
Let’s make a targeted client example. Take a company like Dunder Mifflin in Scranton PA; A paper supply company with basic commercial needs with 25 or so employees. This company will simply move into their office and most likely take over the account from the local or state utility at which point they will be bombarded with offers from other companies offering better rates, green energy gimmicks and more.
This marketing approach can work for the bottom line and a volume approach which may catch the ear of someone internally, but the reputation of the company through the eyes of the internet can shift dramatically which has long term damage and go on a steady decline without notice.
The Modern Age of Energy Company Reputation
There are very specific divisions of responsibility which dictate the reputation of a high-quantity consumer company. These apply at both executive level and employee level and must be kept in consideration for all internal marketing/consumer programs.
- The first thing to recognize is that the internet has the power to decide the future of the company. From a Board level, should capital infusion or loans be required, the first place due diligence starts is the internet as here potential investors or banks will look at how the company is treating its customers and what people think about the Utility.
- Potential customers are now using the internet to verify credibility. Yelp, BBB, RipoffReport, Energy rating websites, review platforms and others are rich with consumer experiences with their utility providers. Managing these platforms is key.
- Never, never, never think that people will go out and say nice things about you. Why should they? If you are involved in charitable programs, innovative consumer experiences or have some new approach which competitors have not yet thought of, then you should make it known through controlled PR campaigns associated with your brand.
Utility Consumer Relations
The backbone behind the online reputation of any utility company will be how it treats its customers. There are some very basic laws in consumer relations which first should be understood.
- Customers just want what they came for and need to get on with their lives.
- Speed of resolution brings about a sense of satisfaction.
- The one on one experience of being taken care of is the emotional feeling they will have towards the brand.
- When the company has a crisis, putting the customer’s inconvenience first will always be the best way to retain the customer.
- Have crisis plan in place. If you have wide spread outages, or sudden spiked rate seasons then know this will result in reputation damage. In any crisis the first thing is have a broad perspective. Listen, assimilate all the bad news and put yourself in the consumer’s shoes. But also listen to what is going well.
- Leverage social media for direct customer relations and make these platforms known. The speed of which communication can happen on social media takes out the emotional brewing time of a consumer. For example, setting up an @companysupport twitter account and responding to every message can avoid bad reviews.
- Take control of or “claim” every online profile setup where consumers interact or leave reviews. This includes energy discussion forums, community chat locations, twitter, facebook, BBB, yelp, EnergyCentral and many others. Establish a consumer relations and reports line.
- Setup a dedicated web platform for consumers to leave reviews. This should capture customer IDs, names, addresses and other vital information to rapidly identify the client.
- Consumer relations training for the utility complaints department is vital for seamless communication and high tolerance of emotional reactions.
Feel free to let us know if you need any consultation on detailed programs. Good luck!