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October 8, 2009

Web Trends: Pepco Connects with Customers Online

I recently started looking around the web for Maryland Chamber members doing interesting things online. Electric utility companies weren’t the first place I thought to look.

My mistake.

Pepco is using Twitter to listen and respond to its customers.

For those of you not familiar with Twitter, it is a “micro-blogging” service that allows you to send and receive 140 character messages online or via text message. The messages are public and you choose which accounts you would like to receive messages from, or follow. To learn more about Twitter and how businesses are using it, check out Twitter 101.

I’ve been following Pepco for a few months — you can find them at @PepcoConnect. Andre Francis, Pepco’s Social Media Lead, manages Pepco’s social media efforts, including the Twitter account. He said the company started using Twitter late last year, after the local Fox affiliate ran a story about Pepco customers using Twitter to complain about their bills.

Francis monitors mentions of Pepco and other key terms. When the opportunity arises to provide customer service or answer a question, Francis offers assistance. Pepco has established a process for handling customer complaints via Twitter, and the company is tracking how many complaints get resolved and questions get answered using the tool. Francis said that customers appreciate the support, and many are impressed that Pepco has taken steps to go outside the realm of traditional customer care.

In addition to the customer service aspects, Pepco is also incorporating the use of Twitter and YouTube videos into their communications efforts. Information the company shares through traditional communications channels, like news and announcements or energy conservation and efficiency tips, also gets shared through these social media channels.

“Initially there was definitely skepticism,” Francis said. “But, now anytime something comes up they reach out to me to try to integrate our message with our social media initiatives.”

Francis recently shared some social media best practices during an industry conference. Here are his six takeaways, along with a video recap from him.

  1. Don’t jump into social media without a goal.

  2. Use any negative sentiment from people tweeting and turn it into a positive by incorporating new practices to avoid future negative sentiment of the same nature.

  3. A chance to convey an unfiltered message on a platform many of their customers may already be using.

  4. 80/20 Rule. Keep 80 percent of message business oriented and the remaining 20 percent non-business oriented.

  5. Decide whether you want a person representing the company or not.

  6. Try to reply to all messages specifically directed to you.

Web Trends is a new blog feature where we will highlight and share online best practices from member organizations. Let us know if you have something noteworthy to share, whether it’s web strategy, email marketing, leveraging social media tools, etc. Email me at wburns@mdchamber.org

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