For municipally owned utilities, responsibility and transparency are the foundation of customer trust.
In 2013, Lubbock Power & Light (LP&L) felt that foundation start to crack when customer frustration over rate increases, billing mistakes and perceptions of disinterest on the part of the utility reached an all-time high. Citizens took swift action; they created an “I hate LP&L” Facebook page, picketed in front of their office, and called for a boycott of the utility.
The crack had turned into a chasm. LP&L believed their best next step was to conduct a marketing campaign to help alleviate the public concern and reclaim their brand trust in the public’s eyes.
Hahn Public answered LP&L’s call in a surprising way, advising the utility the last thing they needed was a marketing campaign.
“Utilities are judged on a continuum with character at one end and competency at the other,” said Jeff Hahn, principal of Hahn Public. “In spite of the customer outcries, the organization as a whole was very competent and operating responsibly and efficiently – they just weren’t talking about it.”
Hahn Public worked hand-in-hand with LP&L to evolve the organization inside and out, and elevate the good work happening inside the utility. The action plan included:
- Changing the internal culture of communication with an emphasis on enabling proactive and regular media outreach. To support this, we developed a new message platform and conducted spokesperson training.
- Re-engaging the community through social media and neighborhood and community meetings. Building on the idea of proactive communication, we identified opportunities for LP&L staff to engage with the community in friendly, informal settings to break down customers’ “us” vs. “them” mentality.
- Re-imagining the billing statement as a tool to demonstrate transparency. Knowing the most frequent customer touchpoint with the utility is the monthly billing statement, our team benchmarked 17 statements from across the country to identify best-in-class features. The new statement highlighted the most relevant usage and billing information in an easy-to-read layout, with trend graphs and charts to help customers understand their usage patterns.
- Redesigning the utility’s website to put the customer first. We designed and launched a new customer friendly, easy-to-navigate website with the most common customer needs – report an outage, manage my account, and help me move – featured front and center. We also created the Powerful Pointers brand, featuring an animated video and infographics to help customers save energy and money.
By working with LP&L to address these issues head-on, Hahn Public helped reduce the community’s backlash against LP&L, prepared the organization for future crises, and laid a new foundation for increased community engagement.
Customers and stakeholders appreciated the new billing statement, and the website has become a space for LP&L to demonstrate responsibility, transparency and progress in all aspects of its operations, including infrastructure projects, technology upgrades, customer care and more. The social media outreach campaign led to increased website and social channel traffic, and Facebook has become an effective customer service tool, with LP&L responding to and resolving customer issues quickly.
Hahn Public continues to work closely with LP&L to engage the community of Lubbock and build public trust.