On June 11th Our Social Times is hosting a webinar on Social Media Monitoring and Engagement for Utilities. We’re fortunate enough to be joined by Charles Stanton, Social Media Manager at British Gas. I recently caught up with him to discuss the challenges utilities face on social media and how British Gas has confronted them.
1. What are the particular challenges you face as a utility company engaging on social media?
A key challenge for British Gas and other players in our industry is building consumer trust when public perception is at an all-time low. Audiences historically do not engage with utilities brands in the same way as other brands, they are often motivated to engage for a complaint or query. On this basis we have to work harder to build meaningful relationships and convert detractors, which means every piece of content has to count.
2. How do you manage the different social media requirements of teams/departments within the company?
In a company as large as ours it’s difficult to categorise social media as belonging to any one part of the company, although it currently sits within our Digital Sales & Marketing team. British Gas is waking up to the realisation that empowerment is critical to allow these teams to evolve socially. For example we’ve recently given PR its own Twitter handle, @BritishGasMedia, and our social customer services team is now a standalone department based in Leeds. We definitely don’t want to stand in the way of change by keeping it all to ourselves.
3. What would you say British Gas is doing particularly well on social media at the moment?
We have a strong blogging and media partnership network which we use to drive interest in non-core products, especially products people wouldn’t normally associate with us. For example people wouldn’t naturally come to British Gas to discover new home technologies, so they wouldn’t know that British Gas won Stuff Magazine’s Home Gadget of the Year award 2012 for our Remote Heating Control product. Using a partnership with Stuff magazine and a dedicated network of tech bloggers we were able to target the right crowd for this cutting edge technology and create real buzz.
4. How do you measure the impact of your social customer service efforts?
A key metric for our customer services team is response time. Of course we’ll look at NPS, sentiment analysis, % of complaints resolved, and other core metrics, but we know that customers will often turn to social media to complain as a last resort having exhausted other options, and they demand a quick response. We also measure success by what our customers say about us, and there’s nothing better than seeing a blog post describing a positive experience with our team.
5. As an energy provider, you surely uncover a lot of criticism on social channels. How do you deal with this? What’s your advice for other utilities?
British Gas has received its fair share of criticism over the last couple of years, perhaps more than most other utilities companies. Our customers will naturally have questions when they read stories in the press that convey a negative impression of our company, and our key strategy is to engage each customer individually on their level. It’s not helpful to just put out prescribed corporate communications, instead we have a large catalogue of engaging content including videos, blogs, links, statistics, and facts that we can use to provide informed, relevant and ultimately tailored responses any question.
6. What are your plans for the future? Where are the new opportunities?
Social media is already growing at an incredible speed in British Gas, and next steps for our business involve embedding a social culture into everything we do – from insight and advertising to HR, PR and beyond. We have to move with our customers and our staff, and if they increasingly choose to interact with us on social media then that’s where we should be. We also have grand ambitions to expand our social customer services capabilities much further, it won’t be long before Twitter becomes a BAU Digital customer services channel and we can revive webchat and email. The future’s hard to predict, but we’re ready!
On June 11th, Charles Stanton will be speaking at Social Media for Utilities alongside Bernard Mooney (Bord Gáis Networks), Leon Chaddock (Sentiment Metrics) and Luke Brynley-Jones (Our Social Times). For more details and to register for this event, click here.