I’ve blogged and spoken a lot about utility price increase communications this year, largely because utility communicators and marketers said it was their top strategic challenge for 2015. Today, I’d like to share some insights and recommendations three utility communicators made at a recent industry conference.
Communicating electric price increases is a confusing and emotional process, and it’s one that will be taking place on a regular basis for years to come, communicators told a conference organized by the Northwest Public Power Association (NWPPA) Sept. 14 in Lake Tahoe. The continued salience of this issue is why I’m glad conference organizers added that session to their event.
Just because your electric prices may be low doesn’t mean people won’t be upset when you try to raise them, Sarah Rossi, customer relations & services manager for Oregon’s Clatskanie PUD, told attendees. “I’ve had a single mother with three kids telling me, ‘I hope you can sleep tonight knowing that my kids are going to bed hungry because of what you’re doing.’ “
When confronted by angry customers, Rossi said, you need to meet them where they are and calm them down because they’re the ones most likely to broadcast their anger over social media. Showing empathy is important, as is being clear and consistent.
Communications Tip of the Month: Rather than focusing on the customers who represent the extremes of the customer satisfaction spectrum, communicators should focus on the mass of the public that is undecided. If you can reach them with a crisp, clear, compelling explanation of why your electric prices and bills are going up, you will have done your job.