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Table Takeaways: The challenges of engaging small and medium business customers

By Lindsey Meehan on

This post was originally published on FirstFuel’s website. FirstFuel is now Uplight.

“We’ve designed the customer experience for our large accounts, but how can we replicate that for our SMBs?”
– Utility Executive

According to J.D. Power, ‘business customers expect their utility to do more than just keep the lights on. In the absence of communication…customers may not recognize the good things their utility is doing… Proactive engagement creates awareness, which leads to higher satisfaction.’

Energy providers understand that customer engagement is essential, but many are unsure where to begin. Many have already tackled engagement with the top 10% of their business customer base, providing one-to-one account management and energy advice. While effective, this approach is resource-intensive, requiring significant investments in both people and budgets. Extending it to the whole business segment isn’t a reality.

Energy providers are left with a huge untouched cohort of small and medium businesses. And they present huge untapped potential. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, businesses account for approximately 60% of total electricity load in the U.S., which translates to a large percentage of utilities’ business customer base. That’s why several utilities are prioritizing this promising segment in 2017 planning.

The challenge, and the opportunity

Diversity within the SMB segment poses one of the biggest challenges to creating a scalable and cost-effective strategy. Sheer numbers make developing a one-to-one account management strategy next to impossible, yet SMBs demand the same level of tailored service as their larger counterparts.

Although a vital customer segment (SMBs often represent over 70% of the business customer base), for many, the SMB segment is perceived as hard to reach and expensive to serve. SMBs have diverse facility types and activities; there are significant differences in their load profiles; and, customers hold varying roles and responsibilities ranging from energy managers to small business owners. Paired with static budgets and head count, utilities recognize that they need to develop new strategies to effectively engage this segment.

SMBs aren’t feeling the love either – according to Accenture, only 35% of SMBs believe their utility offers them targeted solutions.

So, how do you reach them? 

Energy providers need to find cost effective ways to go deeper into their SMB customer base, to target and engage this essential customer segment. Using a customer engagement platform, energy providers can turn their existing meter data into critical business customer insights that enable personalized experiences, communication, and service at scale. Armed with these insights, energy providers can deliver on customer expectations and build closer relationships with their SMBs while improving customer satisfaction and reducing service costs through all of their engagement channels.


In December 2016, FirstFuel convened a series of Utility Executive Roundtables on Business Customer Engagement. Comprised of five discussions attended by senior executives representing 23 utilities, industry experts, and leads from J.D. Power’s Utility arm, the Roundtables spurred lively and robust dialogues on the future of business customer engagement. This blog is the first of four highlighting insights from the conversations. Read the other blogs in our series below: 

 

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