US electric utilities are increasingly using social media and mobile applications to meet customer expectations of a faster, more efficient service, finds a study commissioned by research company Northeast Group.
The results of the benchmark report on the 50 largest US utilities show that power companies understand this challenge, but social media and mobile app services are still relatively new, and are of varying quality.
The study found a correlation between the quality of a utility's social media activity and the level of engagement of their customers.
Of the 50 largest utilities, 49 have active Twitter accounts and they regularly tweet outage alerts, energy savings tips, and customer responses.
Over a one-week period, 40 of the top 50 utilities responded to customer comments via Twitter.
Over the same period, 33 of the 50 utilities provided energy savings tips for customers and 20 of the 50 posted safety tips.
The top three utilities for social media were Memphis Light, Gas & Water (MLGW), Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and Dominion.
Utilities need to do more to attract customers to their Twitter accounts, however, as the study found that on average utilities had 11,000 followers, which equates to only 0.8 per cent of customers.
Mobile app services are currently less developed, but will offer greater potential for utilities, says the research.
Among the 50 largest utilities, 15 had mobile apps and 43 had at least a mobile website.
The top three utilities for mobile apps were San Diego Gas & Electric, MLGW and Con Edison.
This ranking included the functionality and quality of these utilities' mobile apps.
The report suggests that utilities can learn from third-party vendors on more advanced apps.
Key vendors mentioned include Nest, Opower, Schneider Electric, SAP, Aclara, C3 Energy, Belkin, Tendril, Simple Energy, Bidgely, Ecobee and others with mobile and customer engagement platforms.
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