TM talks with John Conway, Key Account Manager at E.ON, about building the right relationships with manufacturers of all shapes and sizes, and how almost 40 years of experience in the energy industry can help achieve this.
When building a relationship with manufacturers, what do you bring to the table?
In a nutshell it’s about helping customers and easing their workload by sharing my knowledge.
An ideal supplier is one who understands and explains this complex industry in simple terms, so that the customer can understand it to a similar degree that they understand their own industry. If I can achieve that goal it makes renewing and winning business an easier task.
What is the key point you try to achieve when building trust in a new customer relationship?
I believe we should always seek to deliver solutions that help customers, because without them we wouldn’t have a business.
Dedicated contacts and account management are vital. Adding value and contributing experience and best practice costs me nothing but time – which for me is an investment.
My customers are always going to test the market and price is important to them, but strong relationships give them more reasons to remain with us in the long-term.
How do you achieve this?
It’s not just about what I can offer – I’m fortunate to have the backing of a powerful team of energy specialists and with their dedication my customers can get on with their business, safe in the knowledge their energy is taken care of by experts.
For example, our project engineers regularly help with complex infrastructure work and advice on capacity levels, and I also have support from the independent market experts at E.ON Portfolio Solution (EPS).
It’s important to look for ways to differentiate our services because all electricity is effectively the same, regardless of who supplies it.
What are the key considerations your clients should think about when managing their energy?
Price transparency is vital to help customers understand and analyse offers on a like for like basis because a final electricity billing price is made up of up to an incredible 22 separate elements and that’s before VAT.
Breaking the price down and identifying each element helps me to simplify the offer. It’s true that wholesale energy costs have reduced in recent years but they’re becoming a smaller part of the final billed price – currently about 55%.
Government levies to fund low carbon generation and transportation are rising faster than inflation – some by 15-20% a year. So energy efficiency is very important – using no more energy than necessary helps keeps costs under control.
We won’t win every tender but by offering an open and transparent package we hope we can become a trusted supplier where the door is always open for the future. If we don’t, we win short term contracts with no hope of customer loyalty.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
My job is challenging, but never boring. For me it’s the variety and technical aspects of the whole package that provide job satisfaction. The buzz I get out of helping customers manage their costs is priceless.
I also really love doing factory tours, it’s really interesting and helps me understand the customer’s business a little more; I’ll never be an expert on every industry but it gives me an insight I’d never get from a website alone.
It helps me understand what’s important to them, how they use energy and helps explore how they could use less. It also provides an opportunity for the customer to relax in their ‘comfort zone’ discussing their ‘specialist subject’ – their own business.