Opower launched their SME (small and medium enterprise) solution about 18 months ago in response to the challenges that utilities experience when it comes to keeping their SME market happy. And, it is certainly critical that they do because SMEs are generally the largest power consumers, spending 45 billion Euros per year on energy (this is five times more energy than homes.) This market also represents a significant cross-sell opportunity so utilities have cause for concern when figures show that the SMEs churn rate is five times higher than the residential market.
Reaching out to SMEs
Many utilities understand the importance of reaching their SMEs more effectively but it can be very challenging, explains Ilan Frank, SME Solutions Lead, Opower who co-presented in Engerati’s webinar Takin’ Care of Business – The SME Engagement Opportunity for EU Energy Suppliers. His advice is that utilities should view this challenge as an opportunity for engagement since the majority of SMEs already expect targeted solutions from their utility. Currently only 35% of SMEs believe they are receiving these solutions.
To understand exactly what SMEs needs and expectations are with regards to electricity services, Opower carried out face to face interviews. With this information, Opower’s objective was to increase satisfaction and loyalty to the power supplier, increase cross-sell opportunities, and help consumers understand and manage their own energy consumption more effectively.
Effective engagement with SMEs
Through their research, Opower came up with a list of five lessons that utilities should take note of when looking to engage SMEs:
1.Be proactive with communications – It is important to use engagement tactics that are simple to understand and are personalised
2.Reach the person responsible for energy management
3.Get personal to break through
4. One size does not fit all – Each business has its own needs and these should be recognised and catered for.
5. Make it easy to take action - some changes to improve energy efficiency can be difficult to carry out and some SMEs don’t have control over their facilities. Less sophisticated advice can also be given since these will also result in change.
Frank adds that it is important to shape the SME relationship by understanding that energy is one of the SMEs’ biggest expenses. Once the utility gives these customers a more personalised service, SME owners will feel like their utility is trying to help them reduce their energy bills and a more trusting relationship will be formed. Once this is in place, it will be easy to offer more value-added services and utilities can harness many opportunities and reduce churn.