The utilities industry is about one thing, and one thing alone – relationships. A broker’s role is to gain the trust of its customers, but more importantly to maintain and build on that trust through long-term, rewarding partnerships that bring benefits to the consumer, the intermediary and the supplier alike. We all know that relationships take time to develop and take even more time to nurture.
Non-industry-specific CRM systems, born sometime in the mid-90s depending on your definition, pre-dated the deregulated utilities industry in the UK and have helped to some extent in providing tools designed to help succeed in managing customers. But the utilities sector is niche, specific, intricate – and fitting a square peg into a round hole with existing systems has proven a challenge for many TPIs. Our research suggests a number of ‘solutions’ adopted by brokers.
- Stick to generic, manage everything else with spreadsheets. Salesforce, Zoho, Pipedrive… endless products developed for an endless number of industries. These provide off-the-shelf options for tracking leads and assigning tasks. But for brokers, procurement cannot be fully managed without customisation, and many TPIs keep their industry-specific tasks to Excel.
- Customise an off-the-shelf solution. An end solution that can prove more efficient than an off-the-shelf system, but adds cost. And lots of it. Many of the well-known CRM systems out there allow for plug-ins and add-ons which, when implemented correctly, can make procurement and energy management processes easier. Add your own developer(s) into the mix and it’s possible to patch together a system tailored to you. Easy or free this is not, and continuous maintenance is required as legislation changes, your customers needs change and your own service offering develops.
- Develop an entirely new solution. Trust us, this ain’t cheap. Nor is it viable for most brokers – who focus their time on what they do best. Brokers are not software developers (generally speaking).
- Don’t use a CRM at all. As a software business we aren’t even going to delve into this one!
We’ve developed something that we think might help. Our developers have been working night and day to bolster our Procure CRM offering, to provide an integrated system that adapts to industry changes, and grows with your business on scalable cloud-based architecture. From March, we’re offering Tasks & Activities and Lead management to our Procure CRM system. And we wanted to do this properly. No half-measures. Link tasks to meters, sites, customers, contracts. Run SME & Corporate tenders, manage change of tenancy / site removal / align contract end dates… all of the tools a broker needs.
Very exciting times for us at UtilityClick on our Big CRM Adventure and we cannot wait to showcase our new, integrated product suite.