When police alerted CPS Energy that a man posing as a utility employee gained entrance into a house on the city’s West Side with the intent to assault the resident, CPS Energy’s communications team swung into action.
After quickly calling a joint press conference with police to remind customers they can verify an employee by asking to see ID and calling CPS Energy, the team turned to social media.
The team posted the same information on CPS Energy’s Facebook page and Twitter account. All day long, customers who follow CPS Energy on Twitter retweeted the information, while Facebook fans shared it with their friends, sending our message out to a much wider audience.
The week before, the team alerted customers of two localized power outages on Facebook. Reaction was swift. Customers let CPS Energy know their power was out and where, and then again when it was restored.
Customer William Long wrote, “I called non-emergency about 20 minutes ago to let them know the traffic lights are out at Tammy/Blanco… but it seems you may already know that. Thanks for posting!”
After power was restored, Long wrote, “Great use of social media!”
“I like it that you have a Facebook page, CPS,” wrote another customer. “Thanks.”
Like many companies today, CPS Energy has expanded its presence on social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube because those have become important ways to reach customers quickly.
“It’s no longer an option, we must participate,” said Kate Cooper, CPS Energy’s social media project manager. “We need to engage the customer where they are — and they’re on social media.”
In the past, Cooper said, customers would call, and later email CPS Energy when they had an issue or wanted to report a power outage. Today, she said, it’s more common, especially for younger customers, to send CPS Energy a message from their mobile devices to Facebook or Twitter.
CPS Energy, in turn, can keep customers updated during power outages, letting people know crews are on the way, or about how long they’ll have to wait until the power comes back on.
“People are appreciative of getting information,” Cooper said, “and knowing someone is listening to their concerns.”
CPS Energy uses social media to remind customers about different ways to save money and how to be more energy efficient. It’s also a way to remind people, Cooper said, “that there are people behind the logo — we’re your neighbors.”
The social media team is comprised of employees in CPS Energy’s corporate communications office, who have taken on social media duties in addition to their regular jobs.
Last year, CPS Energy also launched the Energized, blog, which allows the utility to tell its own story. Recent articles have included the background behind CPS Energy’s decision to alter its solar payment system, how and why the company pays bonuses when performance metrics are met, and that employees and partner companies recently raised more than $80,000 for Respite Care of San Antonio.
There will always be a place for traditional media like television and newspapers, and customers will always be able to call when they need to pay a bill or discuss an issue.
But as our customers come to rely more and more on social media to stay on top of the news of the day, and to share their own lives, CPS Energy will be there.