According to ESource the average key account manager now handles about 40 customers. With a few minor changes, utilities could see that number grow significantly, without sacrificing customer satisfaction.
How Many Accounts Can Your Field Reps Manage?
We see two main problems that utilities face when trying to improve their key account team; An aging workforce, and poor data integration.
First, an aging workforce has created the need to transfer individual knowledge to institutional systems, but has also increased the resistance to new technology solutions. Second, many key account teams struggle to integrate energy analytics with marketing communications and in-person visits, complicating account targeting and creating barriers to effective communication.
Esource found that the number of customers an average rep handles grew 20% from 2013 until 2017 but has since stabilized. If utilities want to continue growing the operational efficiency of their field team they need to overcome the dual barriers of an aging workforce and siloed departments.
Dealing With An Aging Workforce
According to a January 2017 assessment by the US Department of Energy, 25% of US employees in electric and natural gas utilities will be ready to retire within 5 years. Meanwhile, the average age of industry employees is now over 50.
Key account teams are no different. They often consist of industry veterans that have developed deep personal knowledge and long-term relationships with the customers they support. As these employees retire, utilities need to find innovative ways to transfer that knowledge to “the tribe” by recording information in a centralized, connected, cloud database.
Utilities must enable their key account managers to easily transfer notes from client interactions, site-specific information, and historic data including photos of equipment, or they risk losing valuable client information down the road.
However, process changes and technology solutions are often met with resistance by field staff, even if those technologies allow staff do their job more effectively. As such, any solution for recording site audits or in-person visits has to be intuitive, connected, and scalable.
As a potential solution to the technology adoption problem, utilities should consider native applications for the mobile devices their teams use every day. Field reps, especially from older generations, will be much more responsive to a dedicated mobile app, than they would to a webpage based system.
Connecting Analytics to Marketing and Client Visits
78 Million AMI meters have been deployed in the US to date. The data collected by these devices should inform every client interaction a utility has. Unfortunately, analytics are often not well integrated with program marketing or account management strategy. This deficiency leads to poor targeting and segmentation of accounts. and produces unnecessary barriers to communication when field staff interact with clients.
Predictive analytics can help key account staff improve efficiency by highlighting the accounts most likely to respond to incentives for EE programs or DSM.
By analyzing the usage patterns of similar businesses, data scientists can better segment non-residential customers and pinpoint energy anomalies. Utility marketing teams can craft site specific offers that appeal to these anomalous accounts, and field reps can deliver personalized, relevant, and valuable suggestions to their clients.
These same energy insights can be applied to the communications that key account managers rely on to explain programs to their customers. For example, a field rep that is able to quickly highlight the most costly time of day and day of week can use that information to ask more pointed questions during the on-site audit, delivering a better, more personalized experience to the customer.
Improving Field Rep Efficiency
If energy providers want to improve the operational efficiency of their key account teams, they need to embrace the technologies that will make them successful. Dedicated mobile applications and better integration of data analytics are two possible solutions to the issues most likely to affect field rep efficiency. Improving these areas could help utilities grow the number of accounts their key reps manage.