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Is your supplier customer-centric?

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Earlier this year, Direct Energy Business President, John Schultz, discussed the top expectations business customers have of their energy supplier. If someone asked what was most important to you when selecting an energy supplier, what would it be? 

  • Lowest priced offer
  • Easy to work with
  • A trustworthy partner
  • A dedicated account manager
  • A total energy management solution

At the Energy Professionals of Ohio’s 2019 Annual Conference, Direct Energy Business Vice President of Sales, Jim Connolly, participated in a “customer centricity” panel comprised of energy brokers that work with suppliers like Direct Energy Business. When asked what’s most important to them and the clients they serve, the response was their “account manager” or “the overall relationship” and lower on the list was “price.”  Brokers also reported that suppliers should be efficient and easy to work with, and be accurate in their critical data, such as billing.

A competitive price is nice, but…

What drives opinions around what’s important? And why isn’t price always at the top?

For starters, energy markets have been generally stable in recent months, with prices remaining relatively low. But even if markets were volatile, there are many other factors weighing in on overall energy costs. It takes more than a good price point to satisfy consumers and properly manage commercial and industrial energy purchases—especially if a good price has not equated to lower overall costs on bills. 

In the Energy Professionals of America's (TEPA) September 2019 issue of Plugged In, Matthew Salera, Regional Manager for Strategic Sales at Direct Energy Business, spoke about how collaboration and relationships with brokers and customers are becoming hallmarks of bigger and better ideas and solutions for customers’ energy plans.

“Customers today are savvier. They’re homed in on the countless combinations of options that are available to them as part of an energy deal,” Salera says. “They know there’s a smarter way to procure energy than just carpet bomb it with any and every option. Our goal is to flow the conversation so that all of the pieces of an energy deal become one optimized, efficient solution.”

Technology also plays a role in this consultative approach. At the TEPA National Meeting in September, Vice President of Sales Operations at Direct Energy Business, Shawnie McBride, served on the panel titled "Data Democratization and Technology Enhancements for Retail Energy", discussing how technology is making it easier for customers and brokers alike to feel confident about business decisions.

“Information is getting more and more prevalent out there. It's our responsibility, and the value we offer customers, to be able to help them interpret that information. I think technology helps us pull that together and visualize it—and it allows [brokers and customers] to have the tools to make decisions,” said McBride. “Anything we can do to help them access that information and quickly make decisions, I think that's an important part of [better decision-making]. For our channel partners, that ease of transacting—eliminating some of those repeatable processes through the use of technology—I think makes us all more efficient. And the more efficient we can be, the more we can focus on relationship-building and the value proposition."

 

How does your supplier value you? 

Does your supplier take the time to understand the needs of your business and present options that demonstrate value? Are they able to show you solutions, offer new innovations and provide guidance that you could be taking advantage of? Are they anticipating their needs and focusing on delivering lifetime value? Is your supplier customer-centric?

 In today’s energy procurement world, delivering lifetime value begins with a supplier who understands market factors and trends and can apply them to customers’ specific energy requirements to deliver a more comprehensive, multi-faceted solution. According to Connolly in his keynote address at EPO, growing trends in the industry include:

  • Peak demand management services, which can avert cost increases, and reduce costs in some cases, even after contract signing. These services, in addition to energy efficiency services, can help when low prices are still not yielding lower energy budget costs.

  • Renewable energy, which is more affordable than ever, is mandated at some level in many states but is also becoming more important to companies seeking voluntary renewable procurement on behalf of corporate sustainability initiatives. These needs can be filled in a variety of ways through contracts that go beyond the basic renewable energy certificate (REC) purchases.  

  • Reliability services, like on-site fuel cells and backup generation, are becoming more common and are of great interest to large consumers who want less dependence on the grid and can’t afford a shut-down or reliability threats due to grid constraints. 

 

How are we driving long-term value for customers?

As customers become increasingly more interested in and open to what they could be doing with their energy procurement—versus what has seemed comfortable in the past—the focus on collaboration and presenting valuable, long-term solutions is a much more standard approach. Today, it’s much less about “quoting a price,” according to Salera.

Similarly, Direct Energy Business is regularly reviewing customers’ existing plans to see if there are advantages to changing course, adding companion energy management services or recommending one product type over another when a broker is quoting a client. Salera referenced a recent example of when his team found that there was a better option that could yield longer-term value if their client was open to a different product configuration than what they had requested in their RFP.

Aligning our expertise to your needs

One of the ways Direct Energy Business has organized itself to deliver a customer-centric experience, according to Schultz, includes establishing a Customer Experience team. This group serves as the governance structure to align resources and prioritize efforts to drive transformational change for customers and brokers. 

This year, Customer Experience has worked with teams across Direct Energy Business to create, change, modify or implement a host of processes and deliverables that were identified through direct feedback from customers, brokers and internal team leads.

In the future, we're continuing to identify ways to make it easier to do business with us and to provide solutions and experiences that meet our customers’ needs.  We look forward sharing more exciting updates that could benefit you in an upcoming post.

Stay tuned.

Posted: December 05, 2019

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