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Strategic account plans are effective tools that benefit both the utility's account management group and its key account customers by helping to align customer and utility expectations. A concrete strategic account plan will establish:
E Source considers it best practice for account representatives to create individualized strategic plans for each of their key accounts. Preparing plans for your top 10 customers is one way to get the ball rolling. Another interesting idea is setting up a rotation system, especially when product sales are the focus. Account representatives can select their top 10 key accounts to create customized strategic plans for, but once the market potential for product and program sales has been exhausted for a given customer, that account can be rotated out and a new one brought in to focus on. For the rotation method, you'll want to be working from an overall strategic plan for managing and selling to the entire key account segment.
A very different, more generalized approach to strategic planning will likely be required for small and midsize business (SMB) customers. For most utilities, creating a customized strategic plan for each SMB customer would not be worth the time and effort required. But utilities can create more generalized strategic plans for these customers, looking at them by segment to clarify each segment's expectations from their relationship with the utility, to give these customers a clearer sense of how the utility will address their unique segment needs, and to define a strategy for managing and selling products and programs to the overall segment.
Creating plans that focus on industry sectors such as healthcare, hospitality, restaurants, and manufacturing is one way to add some customization to the utility's general strategic plans. The sector-specific plans can span all segments of customers from key accounts down to small businesses. Because different sectors use energy quite differently, it can be beneficial for a utility account representative to understand the unique wants and needs of each.
According to the results of the E Source 2009 Account Management Assessment, most account management departments review strategic plans with utility management semiannually (31 percent) or annually (25 percent). They update those plans annually (31 percent) or quarterly (25 percent). Customized strategic plans for key accounts should be reviewed in person with the customer at least once a year. During this in-person review, account representatives can discuss with the customer how the utility's performance has been and what the utility can do to better serve the customer in the coming year. This helps the utility address customers' specific concerns and demonstrates the utility's active engagement when it comes to meeting customer expectations. Customers who feel they are being listened and attended to will be happier than customers who feel ignored and abandoned.
E Source will be conducting its Account Management Assessment every two years. If you are interested in participating in our next survey in summer 2011, please contact Mike Hildebrand at 303-345-9176.