In a saturated market, utilities sales teams need to constantly evolve techniques to encourage customers to switch provider. At the same time, an increasingly savvy customer base is forcing dramatic changes in the utilities industry with demands for greater control and personalisation.
During 2018 we expect to see the following issues become increasingly important for sales professionals:
Smart meters and smart data
Smart meter installations continue to accelerate as consumers are now more aware of the potential benefits of monitoring their energy usage. By being able to assess their energy usage in real time, consumers are better able to control use. Ultimately this gives consumers greater control over their relationship with suppliers.
In order to make new sales, teams will need to be better prepared than ever because consumers are more informed than ever. Particularly when dealing with existing clients, reps will need to apply the data collected about usage habits, preferences and other supporting information to tailor their approach – and the deals offered.
Vulnerable customers to the fore
However the economy grows (or shrinks) there will always be a segment of customers classed as ‘vulnerable’. Profitable or not, utilities providers have a duty to provide a decent level of support to vulnerable clients.
Sales and retention teams will need to not only understand who these clients are, but also a little more about their behaviour. Often vulnerable clients are resistant to behaviour change interventions and will need additional support to remain engaged with the process.
Third parties are playing an increasingly important role in referring and supporting vulnerable customers too. Sales and retention agents will need to engage with these agencies to ensure that they are in full possession of supporting facts and information that can be used to tailor and improve offerings to completely meet the needs of customers.
Increased IT investment
As well as being more technology-aware, younger demographics expect to conduct most of their transactions online. According to the latest IDC FutureScape: Worldwide Utilities 2018 Predictions report, gas and electricity providers will spend more than 50% of their total customer experience IT budget on digital channels.
Most of that spend will be focused on product marketplaces and personalised services, allowing customers to choose what they want, when they want, using the channel of their choice. As clients gain greater control of their relationship, the role of sales teams will shift more towards a supporting role, providing information and guidance to help complete the sales process.
A change in the role of the utilities sales professional
One report suggests that 83% of customers require assistance to complete an online purchase. This underscores the importance of a highly-skilled, well-trained salesforce, furnished with accurate customer data to answer questions (promptly), and to close the deal.
Field sales teams will face similar demands. Potential customers are already completing one- to two-thirds of the sales process unaided, using the Internet to research products and competitors long before they make contact with your sales team. Field sales professionals will need data and processes that support (and subtly drive) customers to a successful conclusion.
The customer is king
In reality, 2018 will be little different to 2017 – the focus of all sales efforts must be the customer. The distinction will be in how customers are served, using technology and data to personalise services and packages to meet individual needs – including those least able to pay.
In many respects, the revolution has already taken place – it’s now a case of gas and electricity suppliers consolidating and refining efforts as part of a process of continuous improvement. Done correctly, customers and providers will win in 2018.