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Hydro-Québec Wins Social with a Sassy Customer-First Strategy

Hydro-Québec manages the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity in the Canadian province of Québec. The public utility shattered expectations and won brand love with smart social listening, responsive digital customer care, and a surprisingly cheeky tone on social

Black and white action shot of person working with heavy machinery

The COVID-19 pandemic changed digital behaviour forever

The pandemic accelerated social media use dramatically. But long before 2020, Hydro-Québec—an organization of 20,000 employees that produces, distributes, and transports electricity throughout Québec—knew it had to get social media right if it wanted to gain the trust and confidence of its four million customers.

The company needed a platform to efficiently manage the flow of information to its constituents and the media, while also ensuring timely responses to the rapidly growing volume of inquiries on social from its four million customers. Plus, as a crown corporation, it needed a secure tool that was available in French.

  • 40%
    Increase in customer service requests from digital channels
  • 1,800
    Brand mentions per week across media, blogs, forums, and social media
  • 20%
    Increase in overall business reputation score

Hydro-Québec's Challenge

With a reputation as a “black box” that was slow to share information with stakeholders, Hydro-Québec knew it needed to take bold steps to rebuild its image and revitalize its brand.The company needed a platform to efficiently manage the flow of information to its constituents and the media, while also ensuring timely responses to the rapidly growing volume of inquiries on social from its four million customers. Plus, as a crown corporation, it needed a secure tool that was available in French.

How they did it

After moving to the Hootsuite platform, Hydro-Québec began using Hootsuite Inbox to manage conversations with audiences and customers across social accounts in a single place. Inbox allowed the team to interact with conversations directly within social media threads, providing full context to help them respond efficiently while focusing on strengthening relationships.

With more customers turning to social and digital channels to ask utility-related questions, Hydro-Québec saw a 40% annual growth in customer service requests through these channels—a trend that took pressure off its overburdened phone support operations. Chat from within the Hydro-Québec website alone now accounts for 62% of conversations, while 29% take place on Facebook and 8% on Twitter.

Winning brand love and new followers by getting sassy on social

From the time of its first tweet, Hydro-Québec had played it safe with its social posts, limiting activity to sharing straightforward information about outages or distributing press releases—a traditional approach to social media from a public utility.After years of business as usual on social, Hydro-Québec decided to take a chance and change its tone. Rethinking how government agencies show up on social media, the team decided to experiment with injecting humor, a more personal tone, and an occasional shot of sharp-tongued sarcasm into the utility’s social posts The cheeky tone struck a chord, with Québec residents expressing appreciation at a government entity willing to lighten the mood and communicate authentically. Hydro-Québec’s social following swelled to over 400,000 and its brand reputation score improved by 20%.

Screenshot of Hydro Quebecs social media post of a pug dog

Finding and joining the conversations that matter

To maintain its growing reputation as a socially savvy agency, Hydro-Québec needed to improve the team’s ability to monitor mentions of its brand and other key topics. Through Hootsuite’s integration with leading social data intelligence company Talkwalker, the team was able to set up devoted listening streams for key conversations on social and within the media, enabling them to quickly make informed decisions about how to engage with their audience.

They found that mentions continued to grow substantially across digital channels, with a single Talkwalker search returning around 1,800 results per week across media sites, blogs, forums, and social media. With the ability to find and join conversations across channels in real time, the team was able to manage its digital presence more effectively than ever.

Screenshots of Hydro Quebec social media profiles
From transparency and a new, human-first social approach, to newfound customer service efficiencies and effective volume management by the way of automation - Hootsuite has transformed our social media strategy into an efficient customer-first process.
Jonathan Coté
Strategic Advisor, Corporate Communications & Media Relations

Delivering consistent, effective, crisis communications on social

The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 further accelerated Hydro-Québec’s focus on providing relevant social customer engagement at scale. As social media inquiries spiked, concerned customers turned to their primary social channels to communicate directly with the corporation and find valuable resources related to their service and the pandemic.

With Hydro-Québec’s communications team now working remotely due to the global circumstances, they could no longer rely on in-person management approvals. With Hootsuite’s team management features, managers could approve team members’ replies right in the Hootsuite dashboard. Even as the volume of assigned responses more than tripled in the first few months of the pandemic, teams were able to handle the added volume—while pre-publishing checkpoints ensured that all outgoing responses were correct, appropriate, and on-brand.

Why it worked

At Hydro-Québec, customer care is now the heart of the organization's social media presence. In fact, within 12 months after implementing Hootsuite, Hydro-Québec doubled the number of its customer care representatives operating solely on social media.

The team’s ability to effectively separate and assign incoming customer service messages from those handled by the communications team has been a key factor in the company’s success in handling immense volume—and an important industry differentiator.

Today, the crown corporation has a 150+ person communications team, with 50 Hootsuite users managing the dynamic and cheeky social media presence that has transformed Hydro-Québec’s reputation across the country and across its industry.

Products used in this study

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