onto Facebook's photo-sharing app Instagram were running at 10
photos per second, and Facebook and Twitter became the main channels
people used to let friends know they were safe. More significant,
social networks also were key to utilities' real-time customer
communications on the severity and duration of power outages.
From the industry's viewpoint, these social communications do more than alleviate customers' immediate distress. Social communications let utilities play a positive role in enabling consumers to understand evolving situations and plan for the lengui of outages, and they also build longterm engagement and loyalty. If power is restored at the local hospital before residential homes, then it's valuable to explain this to customers.
Understanding Customers Better ...
Equally important, the communication during and after Sandy also flowed the other way. Customers informed utilities in real time about local conditions and outages, which helped utilities mount the right responses. This highlights a further game-changing impact of social media and cloud: a better understanding of what customers are saying, which can be enhanced by analytics-driven segmentation and targeting.
This trend has two aspects: One is a rising tendency for consumers to use social media to contact and seek information from their utilities. In response, many utilities are reshaping their customer relationship management strategies. They're moving away from traditional phone-based call centers and toward online and mobile social contact centers.
... by Joining Their Conversations in the Cloud
To harness the full potential of social media, some utilities are going further - tracking what is said about them on social networks and in die blogosphere or leveraging die data consumers share on social networks. Harvesting this disparate, unstructured, tfiirdparty data and applying analytics to it can enable utilities to head off issues before they become problems and take proactive steps to keep customers happy. Utilities also can use die information to join customers' conversations, better design the service experience for specific groups, and deliver targeted offers mat appeal to particular groups of consumers.
The scalability and flexibility of cloud computing makes it ideally suited to such applications, and new cloud-based tools are emerging all me time. Examples include the Firehose service through which Twitter sells access to die huge stream of tweets that flows through its ecosystem every day, enabling companies to track how diey are perceived.
And cloud-based social media and analytics enable utilities to drive internal and external online collaboration and innovation through techniques such as crowdsourcing. The industry also is seeing more use of cloud applications such as salesforce.com. As me accompanying sidebar describes, Accenture recently helped Schneider Electric implement a salesforce.com-based solution to sharpen its focus on customers.
Cloud Analytics, Operations Management
Cloud-based analytics should have equally game-changing impacts in utilities' operations. To support smart grid and meter network rollouts, utilities are seeking to integrate information technology and operational technology while focusing on data-intensive distributed intelligence and temporal and spatial visualization and
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