SFI Dead2Me Got Me Thinking of @Comed and #nopower again

This month on Small Firm Innovation, the theme is Dead2Me. I really was going to write about the phone book, but #nopower killed that idea.

This past week, Jordan Furlong and Niki Black published posts that got me thinking of ComEd’s response to the stormy disaster that was July. Jordan asked: “Will Your Client Someday Say: You’re Dead2Me?” while Niki wrote about “Social Media: Timing is Everything.” The two hold lessons for ComEd, and its customers. And while utility companies rank half a rung above insurance companies, I think ComEd deserves from credit for its efforts. I’m not saying they were perfect, and I have no idea how often/long ComEd has been active in social media, but it strikes me that they adapted rather quickly.

Timing, indeed, is everything. Many, myself included, took to Twitter. First to chronicle the storm, and next to get the word out (and complain) about #nopower. Needless to say, things were quite a mess. I was initially irked at ComEd, like so many others, for what seemed like an incredibly slow response to restore power. Once I was able to get out of the neighborhood though, I understood.

Picture the tree, only rows of them down entire blocks, and the branches snagged and twisted in power lines. There was no easy way to disentangle the mess. Trees had to be cut down, but cut down around the wires in which they were entangled. No easy feat. And let’s not forget no crews could get out immediately; there was still a lot of lightning once the winds passed. And to be honest, I don’t think the media did even an adequate job of covering the damage.

Anyway.

ComEd was quick to jump on the #nopower tag, and also started propagating their own tag: #comedrestored. And people responded. When power came back on, people, ComEd customers, let it be known. It would’ve been cool to have a Google Maps Mashup of the tweets and their locations (proximate, in some cases), and see how it tracked across the region. Missed the timing on that social media endeavor.

And it was by jumping on the #nopower tag, and then propagating #comedrestored, that ComEd fulfilled:

Respond to every client request in a timely fashion, even if it’s just an acknowledgement that the message was received and a promise of a response within a specified period.

Managing the Twitter feed for Clio and Small Firm Innovation, responding to “every client request in a timely fashion” can be a challenge. You need a good feel for what “timely fashion” means to your client base, and the medium they use to communicate. An email response might have a different “timely fashion” expectation than Twitter. And responding in 140 characters or less is a bit of an art. Throw in a #nopower crisis, though, and it’s a whole other ballgame. I don’t have the faintest idea how many people ComEd has monitoring and responding to Twitter, but its stream is full of responses. Not “canned responses,” but apologies with a personal touch, inquiring for more information or directing to the phone number or website to report an outage. Useful, helpful responses. Some might point to @comcastcares as the model, and it is a forerunner.

ComEd seems to have struck both social media timing and customer response correctly, though. I’m rather looking forward to their customer roundtable.

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