Households and business customers: two different approaches incompatible for an energy company?

Historical energy suppliers are gradually finding themselves in a competitive battlefield in Europe, when they are not always used to it: liberalization and opening of energy markets directly impact them.

This battlefield is not uniform: it is in reality a collection of several rings on which the competitors  are not the same and on which the weapons and tactics to win differ.

Residential customers buy energy as a commodity; they do not, for most of them, grant any particular interest to energy and their only spontaneous possible concern is price.

These clients are affected by approaches that are alternatively playful and emotional, that take them as little time and effort as possible and are likely to change suppliers quickly for reasons that are not necessarily the responsibility of the energy provider. The service is consumed immediately.

This is why energy companies are trying to draw inspiration from experiences carried out in the telecom or the bank sectors.Moreover, these customers are not the most attractive to energy companies but are often the most sensitive for their public shareholders.

Business customers are not a single and homogeneous segment, but some characteristics are common to all of these customers: they want greater proximity, strong expertise, economic reasons to purchase, possibly supplemented by others.

The commercial approach of these clients takes more time, requires the management of multiple contacts. The notion of services is becoming more and more long-term.

These are indeed raw descriptions of these customers’segments: they nevertheless reveal characteristics that are sometimes opposed.

I regularly find in my energy customers a real difficulty in addressing these two macro-segments simultaneously, to make cohabit the marketing plans and very different and unrelated commercial approaches. Many questions are often left unanswered:

  • Should we target all segments, knowing about, on some ones, focused and specialized competitors are developing?
  • Should these segments be targeted with a single organization or brand?
  • Does an energy company need to have experienced skills in each of these segments to succeed?

The upheaval in the energy markets is starting to impact the commercial approaches. We are only at the beginning but it is a safe bet that profound changes will be necessary for energy companies to be as efficient with regard to customers as different as the residential and professional ones.

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