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How a German Utility Company Improved Customer Experience Using Social Listening

on 08/07/2015

This case study is a collaboration between Talkwalker and our partner Radiosphere, a German Social Data Specialist. We teamed up to take a look at how a major public utility company in Germany is using Talkwalker’s social data intelligence in their day to day operations to improve their communications, customer service, sales and marketing efforts. All the examples in the study are real use cases that illustrate some of the conclusions we reached in our latest industry report: Utilities and Social Listening - 5 Ways to Power Your Business Strategy


Providing electricity to a nation, region or even a city is a mammoth undertaking. Infrastructure must be sound, service must be reliable, prices must be reasonable and the companies involved in this process must be financially stable. Given how essential electricity is to people’s everyday lives, this has meant that until the last couple of decade electricity provision has largely been a public or state run service. But in recent years, with the privatisation of the energy industry in many countries, including Germany, the workings of this vital industry have changed considerably. 


In Germany the change occurred in 1998, when the market became accessible for all energy providers. Regions and cities that had previously had just one electricity supplier could now choose between numerous providers.

Although grid access was still in the hands of large corporations, they were now legally obliged to open up the retailing of energy to a whole host of new competitors. This new competition benefited customers, who could now save anywhere from 10-20% on their energy bills just by switching providers. At present, 45 million customers in Germany can choose from a selection of about 1,000 energy providers, 70% of which are small and medium-sized public utility companies or Stadtwerke.

Stadtwerke are essentially municipal or regional companies that are owned by the cities or regions and provide a variety of everyday services such as energy and water provision as well as telecommunications. They are also in fierce competition with the many private suppliers that operate in these sectors.  

Because of deregulation, and the increasing number of foreign providers that have entered the German energy market since 1998, pricing behaviour has changed and this has had a knock on effect on customer behaviour. Since the market was opened to more providers, an estimated 5-8% of private customers have switched providers, as have about 7% of business clients.

These numbers are likely to continue to rise. With the number of energy providers increasing all the time, competition in the energy market is only going to get tougher and the pressure on providers will increase.

The following case study looks at how one major Stadtwerke uses Talkwalker’s social listening tool to manage communications of power outages, monitor and react to conversations of customers looking to switch energy provider and integrate social listening into an external social customer service command center. 


Challenge - Communicating during a crisis

Public utility companies know how important it is to provide information to customers in real-time to ensure good service and it is of course important to react quickly to customer enquiries on all social networks. Additionally, individual customer postings need to be forwarded to the right departments so customer issues can be resolved quickly. Complaints should for example be handled by customer service, while questions about green energy should be handled by the sales department.

A public utility company also needs to be able to react quickly to certain keywords, such as power outage, blackout, flood etc., to keep developing crises as contained as possible. An efficient alerting system can send messages to recipients if pre-defined keywords are mentioned or the buzz about a topic increases sharply. Using Talkwalker’s social data intelligence, this Stadtwerke was able to handle all of these issues.


“Due to heavy rainfall, water got into one of our power distributors, causing a power outage in parts of the city.” 

Solution - Using alerts for better efficiency

A major power outage in the city, led to the Stadtwerke facing a flood of questions and online postings. Using a robust alerting system based on effective social listening, the responsible departments were informed immediately.


Alerts were sent to different recipients according to a pre-defined workflow plan, ensuring that no postings or questions on social networks remained unanswered. Instead, they were sent to the right departments, where experts and customer service employees took care of each issue. Customers were then updated with information about the outage very quickly.

Alert subscription

  • Example of a Talkwalker alert

“Quick information about the cause of the outage for our customers was very important. Using social media, our experts were able to reply to customers in near-real-time, tell them about the estimated duration of the outage and the progress in each part of the city. The feedback we received from our customers was positive across the board. Many showed understanding for the outages and praised the quick and competent updates”, - Stadtwerke social media manager. 


By combining alerts triggered by social mentions with efficient customer communication through both online and offline channels, the company was able to provide customers with vital information concerning the outage, avoiding a PR disaster.


“Because our phone lines were hopelessly overloaded, we used a pre-recorded message to direct customers to our social media channels for the most up-to-date information on the outage. It was impressive to see how many customers made use of these offers”, the social media manager added.  

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