Utility account management is in the midst of an important transformation that began a few years ago and will continue in the near future.

The dominant theme of the Fall 2015 E Source Account Management Summit was how to shift utility account management from a reactive stance of responding to customer inquiries and complaints to a forward-thinking, consultative approach led by proactive energy advisors. Mike Hildebrand, E Source vice president of Sales, described the forces driving the need for this transition when he said, “There is an intersection happening in customer preferences, the regulatory environment, technologies, and competitive landscapes. Three years ago if I asked who your biggest competitors were, you would not have said GE, Tesla, or SolarCity. So things are changing rapidly.”

In this environment, utilities need smart, flexible account managers who can anticipate customer challenges and work proactively, as partners, to help customers solve problems. This requires a diverse skill-set. In the 2015 E Source Account Management Assessment—a study that we conduct every two years by surveying utilities about their account management practices—respondents chose interpersonal skills, personal reliability, listening, and customer service skills as the top four most important attributes for key account representative job candidates. It’s noteworthy that these soft skills rated higher than business acumen.

Excel bar chart showing that more utilities think soft skills (interpersonal skills, personal reliability, and listening) are the most important attributes for an account manager.

We also know from the 2015 E Source Large Business Gap and Priority Benchmark that trustworthiness was rated by large business customer respondents as the most important attribute for account representatives to possess. Additionally, E Source analysis showed that “Is trustworthy” is the overall top driver of large business customer satisfaction with utilities. Our industry is doing a good job of filling that trusted role: Utilities are still considered the most trusted resource for energy advice by large business customers. Consultants came in at a distant second in our survey, followed by colleagues at similar businesses.

Want to learn more about how your utility peers approach account management and what drives business customer satisfaction? Want to understand how a Customer-Side Management strategy can help your utility proactively respond to key customers? E Source members can join us on Tuesday, February 23, for our web conference Account Management and Business Customer Satisfaction. Come share your knowledge and your concerns!