Geoff Land of Infinity CCS looks at how creating more touchpoints with customers can help intermediaries in the energy sector to boost sales and retain customers…
With the recent demise of the UK’s most complained about energy supplier, Iresa, and the appointment of Octopus Energy to take over its customer base, industry watchdogs have called on OFGEM to get tougher on companies that provide poor service.
In an industry like energy where the product cannot be differentiated, and customer loyalty is essentially non-existent due to the masses of almost indistinguishable competitors, customers are enticed by price and kept by service.
Iresa, which purported to be the cheapest supplier was clearly able to onboard plenty of customers, but with an astonishing 9,000 complaints per 100,000 customers evidently didn’t have the service chops to keep hold of them.
With the quality of customer service in the sector being such a big issue, it does create an opportunity for companies that wish to compete on service rather than price. Time and time again when customers are asked, they say that they will pay more for exactly the same product if it comes with better customer service.
While 79% of people told Which? that having a lower price than their previous supplier was an important factor in choosing their current firm, better customer service was a key factor for 31% of the people surveyed. A fifth claimed to choose a supplier with a good reputation or one recommended by experts.
The difficulties of providing great service in the energy sector
In the energy sector particularly, there are often several companies involved in the chain of supplying a customer with their service. There is the generator, distributor, wholesaler, and supplier, and there could also be a broker or price comparison service involved in getting the customer to sign up or switch in the first place. Each of these has a different relationship with the end-user and may be required to intervene at different times.
This means it can be difficult to provide great service all the time as sometimes customers’ problems are just outside of your scope to deal with. For example, a supplier can deal with a billing issue but can generally only escalate a supply problem to the distributor.
If you’re a broker or other intermediary, your relationship with customers usually begins and ends with the sales process, and may only pick up again a few years later at contract renewal time.
To remain competitive, brokers must find new ways to be relevant by becoming more customer-centric, empowering customers with proactive and personalised care on all channels, and where possible having greater control over their own customers’ usage experience.
Building customer relationships throughout the lifecycle
The ideal situation for a broker is to be involved with the whole customer journey, from first quote to onboarding to renewal, with little reliance on their energy supplier other than for pricing data.
This would allow them to take a much proactive role and communicate with customers in between sales cycles. While they don’t want or need to take on the supplier or distributor’s customer service role, the ability to verify customers’ satisfaction with the service they are provided, and intervene if necessary, offers the promise richer customer relationships.
By gaining more and richer customer data in this way, upsell and cross-sell opportunities present themselves. It’s also possible to better understand customers’ needs to craft the right pitch to them next time, as perhaps the data model shows another supplier would be a better fit.
Getting around the roadblocks with technology
Most energy brokers and intermediaries are held back by the lack of the necessary IT systems to do proactive, omnichannel customer service properly. What’s missing is a bespoke workflow and CRM system which, once integrated with supplier partners’ systems, can display pricing information, manage the contract and onboarding process, and ideally share information about customers’ service issues and usage patterns.
This would be an end-to-end tool for sales, sign up, customer service, and then renewals. Although there would likely be restrictions placed on what could be accessed, very few of these limitations need come from the CRM itself. Modern CRM systems, whether they are on-premise, hosted, or cloud can make API calls to other modern systems to fetch and send almost any data that can be stored in a database.
The use of workflow tools as a front-end ensures that any process can be carried out quickly and easily just by following on-screen prompts. Whatever data is needed for that task is pulled from whichever database or system stores it and presented to the staff member on screen.
The ability to give staff a single user interface for accessing data and workflow processes has a huge pay off in terms of time and efficiency. As there is no longer any need to log into multiple systems, each of which must be learned, and look up and find information it speeds up customer interactions and even facilitates cross-sales and up-sales as the agent has a full view of the customer.
Infinity’s desktop and workflow software is used as a CRM system by energy brokers and energy companies. Download our Energy Broker guide for more information; http://www.infinityccs.com/key-things-energy-brokers-need-to-boost-growth/ or visit www.infinityccs.com for more information.