NEWARK, N.J., May 22, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- CS Week recently recognized PSE&G for its use of social media in communicating with customers. The educational conference gave the New Jersey utility an award for "Innovation in Customer Service" for its use of Twitter during Superstorm Sandy- an effort that culminated in the company having more followers than any other utility in the United States.
JD Power and Associates also identified PSE&G's use of Twitter during Sandy as a best practice, citing in a recent report the utility's "industry-leading communications success" and writing "PSE&G worked harder than other impacted utilities to get its message out to consumers...PSE&G responded to its customers and other stakeholders and maintained a constant flow of information about power restoration progress."
A partnership between the energy company's Customer Solutions and Corporate Communications departments, honed during a social media pilot program at the beginning of 2012, proved invaluable when Sandy hit later that year. That historic storm, and the nor'easter that followed, brought unprecedented damage and challenges to the mid-Atlantic region, impacting electric service to 1.9 million PSE&G customers and damaging gas lines and meters.
"PSE&G's use of Twitter during Hurricane Sandy became a differentiator for the utility when it decided that 2-way communication with customers during the storm was more important than the risk of negative feedback," said Rod Like, CEO of CS Week. "Their customers showed that they will reward the utility if they feel engaged."
"While many utilities are using social media, very few are using it to talk with customers the way we are. The level of support and engagement we provided our customers during Sandy was unique within our industry," said Joe Forline, PSE&G's vice president for customer solutions. "I am particularly proud of the speed and flexibility with which we ramped up, our ability to adapt to the magnitude of the situation, the volume of interactions we handled and the intense and sustained nature of our efforts."
PSE&G's operations and communications personnel worked hand-in-hand, staffing the company's Twitter channels fifteen hours a day for two and a half weeks. A team of twenty-two people sent more than 9,000 messages over seventeen days and the company's Twitter community grew by almost 47,000 followers by the time the event was over.
The company supplemented safety tips and updates on restoration activities with information offered by FEMA, the Red Cross and community leaders. It used its burgeoning social media presence to amplify messages from municipal and state officials, police departments, Offices of Emergency Management and nonprofits. And it shared supportive messages posted on Twitter with an employee population in need of a morale boost.
When the volume of inbound tweets was too great to reply to each individually, the team used pre-established criteria to respond to messages about safety and reply when it felt it could benefit a broad audience, make a difference or engage online influencers.
"The community we created on Twitter allowed us to talk directly with customers- to share potentially life-saving safety tips and talk about preparation, outage reporting and progress," Forline said. "And, in the days and months after Sandy, our social networks have become destinations for ongoing discussions about payment assistance, energy efficiency, and our plans to protect our infrastructure against future extreme weather.
"We are constantly working to provide the customer with a more robust and positive experience. We learned a lot during Sandy about the value of meeting our customers where they're gathering- and increasingly, that's on mobile-based social media platforms."
PSE&G recently introduced "myAlerts," which allows customers to receive text messages and emails with information about power outages and payments. Those who are interested in getting messages on their mobile devices can register at http://www.pseg.com/myaccount.
"It's no longer enough to simply tell people what we offer, how we add value, and that we can help," Forline said. "We need to be having an ongoing dialogue that shows we are listening, engaging and continuously improving. It's what our customers demand, and what we expect of ourselves."
CS Week is the premier utility customer service conference for managers and executives at investor owned utilities, cooperatives, municipalities and government entities.
Public Service Electric and Gas Company (PSE&G) is New Jersey's oldest and largest regulated gas and electric delivery utility, serving nearly three-quarters of the state's population. PSE&G is the winner of the ReliabilityOne Award for superior electric system reliability. PSE&G is a subsidiary of Public Service Enterprise Group Incorporated (PSEG) (NYSE: PEG), a diversified energy company. Find more on the company at www.pseg.com and engage www.pseg.com/socialmedia
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SOURCE Public Service Electric and Gas Company (PSE&G)