More digital, innovative and climate-friendly - the increasing competition in the energy market requires energy suppliers to offer new services beyond pure commodity business. For example, the visualization of consumption data, which is obligatory as a result of the rollout, is being offered as an additional service. But many utilities have difficulties by bringing new services to market. To solve this problem, software expert GreenPocket and utility partner smartOPTIMO have developed a seminar to support municipal utilities with their marketing for business and commercial customers. But what is the chance and what does this mean for the non-commodity business in the long term?
Energy market players and with them utilities often struggle to differentiate themselves from the competition and offer unique services to their customers. Particularly in times of digitalization and the energy transition, new customer-oriented services are increasingly taking center stage in business alongside pure, interchangeable commodity business. Many municipal utilities and suppliers want to establish themselves as digital partners who support their customers additionally to the supply of electricity. Through new digital platforms data sets can be collected and processed, the customer is better informed and products can be tailored individually, e.g. in terms of sustainable and regional energy offers, so that customers can budget more cost-and energy-efficiently. Visualization solutions which become obligatory with the increasing expansion of smart metering systems, offer differentiation potential for energy suppliers. However, when it comes to new business areas, the necessary expertise in marketing is often not enough and there are limited time- and budgetary resources. So what can you do if you want to expand your market non-commodity business as simply and as resource-efficiently as possible?
Expand non-commodity business, exploit potentialfor differentiation
GreenPocket GmbH develops energy management and visualization software and has already implemented over 140 projects for customers. Together with its partner smartOPTIMO GmbH & Co. KG, the smartVISIO software has been distributed to several municipal utilities in Germany since 2018. Therefore, GreenPocket and smartOPTIMO know the problems faced by the distributors of the municipal utilities and that is why they have created a strategy seminar to support their customers with professional advice. The participants of the strategy seminar, which was held for the first time, were, in addition to representatives of GreenPocket and smartOPTIMO, municipal utilities that already resell the energy management software to their corporate customers, and potential customers who received direct advice on the sales strategy. The objectives of the training were to strengthen the sales force for the new services and to create advantages over the competition. Thanks to the long-standing cooperation and experience of the two service providers and their customers, difficulties in sales were identified and strategic solutions were developed.
Ulrich Schreiber, Customer Success Manager of GreenPocket, was the leader of the seminar:
"With our software we offer various customer segments a flexible tool for their energy management. Recently, we have received a great deal of demand on the topics of marketing and business models. With our seminars we now want to ensure that the functions of the software are brought to all customers in the best possible way so that everyone is aware of the benefits and opportunities and can benefit from them.“
In addition to the business model and marketing opportunities, various pricing models and in particular the core benefits for both, suppliers and customers, were discussed. Correctly used, the tool cansupport AUDIT processes or improve the image.
Learning from best practice experiences
In case of sales barriers, such as the design of pricing models and marketing materials, GreenPocket and smartOPTIMO were able to make recommendations from their own experiences and describe different approaches.
"You have to know how you can reach the customer in the best way. Since we have been practicing exactly that for 10 years we have already been confronted with numerous problems for which we had to find solutions. Now we can explain them to our customers with our supporting services," says Schreiber.
For the right customer approach municipal utilities should know their customers and their needs. Then the feature set of the software can be tailored exactly to the customer's wishes with just a few clicks. In this way, each customer gets only what it needs and functions that would make the software unnecessarily complex are excluded.
In the seminar numerous benefits were highlighted especially for customer groups from small businesses, industry, the housing sector and local authorities: A craft business for example can use the software toanalyze and compare energy consumption during and outside business hours. Forthe municipality it is possible to determine the consumption of properties thatare seasonally not open, e.g. in schools during the vacation season.
Finally, the relevance of regular customer surveys and clear internal support regulations were emphasized to ensure that the usage rate remains high even after the software has been installed. Once the software has been successfully marketed and installed, the utility's sales force can reach its benefits: In addition to cross-selling opportunities and higher end-customer loyalty, for example load profiles can be analyzed automatically in the future. This eliminates the need for time-consuming manual Excel analyses on the sales side. The automated load curve analyses are intended to detect load peaks and irregularities and to point out to corporate customers potential savings in ancillary energy costs, which in turn increases customer satisfaction.
Satisfied participants, successful seminar
Henrik Jostmeier, Project and Product Manager at smartOPTIMO, summarizes the strategic importance of the seminar:
"We are pleased that we can support municipal utilities in their non-commodity business with the help of the seminar and share valuable practical experience from the partnership together with GreenPocket."
All participating companies concluded that visualization and early consulting regarding marketing and usage can have a strong impact on competitive differentiation. In order to strengthen the non-commodity business of the energy suppliers in the long term, GreenPocket and smartOPTIMO would also like to offer post-installation consulting seminars to exchange experiences and solve problems. After all, especially in times when the digital component of the customer relationship is becoming increasingly relevant, players are prompted to take action. A mutual exchange is essential in order to jointly take the further steps from analog to digital customer care and thus increasingly offer customers added value.