Xcel Energy prepared for spring storm feedback on social media - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Xcel Energy prepared for spring storm feedback on social media

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Eau Claire (WQOW) - The snow still stands in some parts of western Wisconsin, but we're now on the doorstep of the severe weather season. Xcel energy says it's ready for a storm of social media responses that are becoming the norm when bad weather hits; people using Facebook and Twitter to report outages.

"Customers want to be mobile, they are mobile," said Brian Elwood, Xcel Energy Spokesperson.

Even though power lines may be down, Internet service may not be. That's why Xcel Energy has put an emphasis on social media service.

"We have Facebook pages, we have Twitter pages, we have YouTube channels, and we have Pinterest pages," Elwood said.

With the winter we had, there were plenty of people logging in to check things out.

"We've got an Xcel Energy Wisconsin page, and we've seen a 70% increase in the last four months in followers on our Facebook page, which is dramatic," said Elwood.

In addition to taking calls, Xcel Energy's Eau Claire offices handle web interaction company-wide. That's 3.4 million electric customers in eight states.

"We've got customer service representatives who will monitor those pages 24/7. We've got more than two dozen people who monitor those pages throughout the night, early morning hours, on the weekends," Elwood added.

There are situations in which issuing an explanation ahead of time is important.

"In January, when we had to make a public appeal to our customers to reduce their natural gas use, because there was a gas pipeline explosion up in Canada that was impacting our supplies in the Chippewa Valley. We used social media to communicate with customers, and we found that it was a really good platform to communicate back and forth with customers," said Elwood.

But when it comes to feedback from followers, Xcel urges caution.

"People need to be aware that we don't want them out and about telling us where wires are down, because a downed wire can be very dangerous. We would prefer that they just stay away and call in," said Julie Simon, Xcel Energy Senior Director of Field Operations and Control Center.

There are more than 300 employees at Xcel's Sky Park location on Eau Claire's west side. Just like the linemen out in the field, some will work 12 hour shifts during major outages. 

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