A savvy way of thinking about business practices gained traction in the software-as-a-service (SaaS) industry a few years back. It’s customer centric. It’s strategic. And it requires all functions of a company to revolve around one central goal: revenue.
Hence the name, Revenue Operations. Or, if you’re too busy to enunciate all those extra syllables, call it RevOps. (That’s what the Big Tech hipsters do.)
RevOps emerged out of a shift in computer software delivery methods over the past decade. Today, most SaaS brands operate via monthly subscription, and so do all kinds of other businesses, including craft breweries, coffee roasters and even sock retailers.
Subscriptions require a different kind of cross-coordination between sales, data tracking, and identifying what customers are actually willing to pay for, month after month.
Salesforce, Adobe and MicroSoft are just some of the huge-name SaaS companies that have made the jump to subscription. The fact that they paid attention to the critical intersection between sales and customer feedback makes a lot of sense, especially for the software industry, where the end-user product is intangible. A person might use a particular software package for a while and then not touch it for a long time but decide they need it again in the future.
But any software (that’s worth its salt) requires continuous updating, bug fixes and improvements. Customers who went back and needed more functionality were stuck with version 1.0, unless they wanted to pay for a whole new 2.0 package.
Along the way, experts figured out that customers wanted those updates and improvements, even though they’d paid for the whole software package a year or so prior. Good business practice dictated that customers actually deserved that courtesy. They’d paid a lot for the product. They would remain loyal customers if only the product could do more things, if only the product could grow with them, and if only the company were more available to guide them through each step.
And, so, a new, more customer-centric way of doing business began to develop.
The Startup Effect
Moreover, we surmise, small, “nimble” startup companies began to arise, and young entrepreneurs needed to hire people who could “wear many hats.” That likely meant that Sales, Marketing, Customer Success, Finance and Product Design were, and still are, being performed by a very few people working feverishly around the clock.
Tight-knit teams who always knew what other departments were up to, who were all working together to achieve the same goal, and who were 100 percent dedicated to upping revenue numbers in order to simply survive, we submit, likely paved the road that led to Revenue Operations.
According to Adam Ballai, CEO and Co-founder of a company that actually calls itself RevOps, “The main purpose of Revenue Operations initially was to pool resources and create some horizontal alignment between the various GTM (go-to-market) departments. However, people have realized the cross-functional nature of Revenue Operations has provided unique insights and capabilities within planning, analysis, and strategy.”
As such, you can hardly set foot inside a conference room nowadays without hearing the phrase Revenue Operations. Google it and you’ll uncover a montage of corporate speak terminology that attempts to describe what RevOps is, does, and means, including:
Orchestration, integration, coalescing, alignment, cadence, sequence…
Kind of makes you wonder why you didn’t get tickets to the symphony this weekend. And it doesn’t necessarily answer how RevOps would work for a business like, say, a 100-year-old utility company.
So…what does Revenue Operations actually mean, and how would it work for utilities?
According to Meredith Schmidt of Salesforce, as she explains in Episode 21 of the Quotable podcast, Revenue Operations is an overall business process improvement that requires heavy focus on a customer’s entire life cycle.
Customer Life Cycle Definition:
“The various stages a consumer goes through before, during and after they complete a transaction.”BigCommerce.com
RevOps brings support, from all angles, to what Schmidt calls the “sales army.” That includes help from all the people who are out there generating leads, engaging potential clients, crunching numbers to find out which programs work best, and advertising products.
For a utility company, that might also include the folks fielding service calls, infrastructure planners, construction teams, technologists, sustainability managers, the billing department, PR and beyond.
Every department “coalesces” around supporting revenue growth; or, oftentimes for utilities, eliminating wasted spending and saving money wherever possible. Every department knows what other departments are up to. They check in regularly and share information. They set goals together and reach goals together.
Kind of like that symphony orchestra, where the strings and percussive and brass sections all know what each other is doing, so that they make delightfully pleasant music for us to enjoy.
RevOps for utilities also means having solid geographic and demographic sensibilities: understanding why a program or service works great in one area of their service footprint, and why that same program or service might fail miserably in another.
The Role of Data in RevOps for Utilities
Another essential ingredient to RevOps includes capturing customer data and segmenting it to be useful in achieving business initiatives. Deciding where to gather data along that customer life cycle, and how to put it to work across the organization, becomes clear when teams are working in tandem.
Data gathering can be done when utility customers sign up for service, turn their lights or gas on, pay bills, visit the company’s website, call in to report an outage, sign up for e-billing or outage alerts, move to a new home, have their power shut off, sign up for assistance, decide to ditch paperless billing, engage with advertising and more.
Segmentation comes in when you can section off all the people who fall into those buckets in order to determine how you’ll engage with them to solve all their problems.
The more you can bring intelligence and predictability into your data gathering and segmentation processes, Schmidt suggests, the better off you’ll be. That’s because you can anticipate what your customers might do next or need most right now, and offer them a helping hand, stat. This is how customer loyalty over a lifetime gets built.
Gone Are the Days of the Silo
Power industry players are taking a lot of flack these days for remaining “siloed,” meaning that their Sales, Marketing, Customer Service, Street Crews and Finance teams are all isolated from one another.
Sure, each team gathers data. Sure, each team works hard to reach its goals. It’s just that those goals have, traditionally, up until now, been different, department to department.
In the past, marketers may have wanted to spread the word about e-billing enrollment while Customer Service teams were busy fielding complaints about late fees. Meanwhile, road crews were dealing with downed power lines while Sales reps courted commercial business owners, trying to get big contracts signed.
Thankfully, these days, utilities are working hard to become less disjointed, despite the fact that they employ thousands of people across numerous states.
BlastPoint CEO and Co-founder Alison Alvarez says, “What’s key with a lot of utilities today is that they know there are areas they could improve upon, as far as moving toward Revenue Operations, which would align different departments to a common goal. But their main issue is, typically, in identifying which of those problem areas is most important to solve first. In other words, they know there’s a problem. They just don’t have proof to back it up, so they can’t demonstrate for the C-level why taking one action would be better than taking another.”
Adam Ballai of RevOps posits a solution: “You should always have one system that is the source of truth…with as many other data sources as possible integrated into the system of record, including accounting, marketing and sales automation, internal, etc.”
Thankfully companies like BlastPoint do the heavy lifting of data gathering, analysis and segmentation for all kinds of businesses. With this kind of support, utilities arm themselves with proof, predictable insights, and knowledge that’s shareable across the organization for setting revenue-generating plans into motion.