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Ricoh Launches Customer Marketing Suite for Utility Companies; Commentary by Cary Sherburne

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Press release from the issuing company

 Ricoh Production Print Solutions LLC (Ricoh), a leading provider of digital output solutions, today announced the launch of its Customer Marketing Suite for Utility Companies, an industry-first offering of behavior-based predictive models designed to optimize marketing budgets and improve how utility companies communicate with their customers. This suite leverages the expertise Ricoh’s professional services team has gained through its work with many of the world’s leading utility companies including its award-winning implementation with the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (LADWP).

The Customer Marketing Suite for Utility Companies takes advantage of actual utility customer data from multiple development partners to create a standardized set of algorithms that allows utility marketers to target customers with the highest propensity to respond to various marketing communications. The Customer Marketing Suite for Utility Companies has solutions that address key initiatives for utilities including: electronic adoption, renewable energy adoption, equal pay, usage, late pays and attrition. This type of predictive modeling drives greater efficacy of the models, illustrates industry trends and illuminates best practices – all features marketers seek in their marketing communications. This elevates them beyond simple customer communications to more relevant and targeted marketing communications which then lowers expenses and improves response results.

 With these models, utility companies can reduce the amount of “offer fatigue” consumers often feel from their service providers. Predictive modeling allows marketers to see who within their portfolio is not likely to engage with an offer, thus enabling the company to exclude those particular customers from receiving a message. With the ability to identify specific, receptive audiences, utility companies can develop campaigns that maximize results while optimizing their marketing budgets.

“Our Customer Marketing Suite for Utility Companies offering is a true industry-first, enabling utilities to optimize their communications budget and resources to meet their business goals. This service targets only those customers who are most likely to respond to a communication,” said Mike Bryant, Worldwide Practice Leader – Strategy and Marketing Analytics, Ricoh. Through our experience with some of the world’s largest utility companies, our forward-looking professional services team has developed this offering which truly utilizes a behavior-based predictive modeling system, increasing engagement and bottom line revenues. This is the first of many customized suites we plan to develop for our various customer segments.”

The Customer Marketing Suite for Utility Companies allows marketers to select from three predictive modeling solutions.

  • Predictive Modeling: this is a behavior-based suite of predictive models designed to optimize marketing budgets and improve the value of customer communications. This suite offers utility marketers packages for:
    • Risk Solutions: These types of solutions were developed to solve the common pain point for utilities including late payments and attrition. Optimizing data that may sit in other departments (such as billing or finance) can help more clearly and directly speak to a certain audience base – predictive modeling helps decipher which customer receives these communications
    • Service Solutions: These can be considered traditional up-sell and cross-sell marketing techniques including offering renewable energy packages, providing energy initiative. Utilities would leverage insights to educate the customer, provide them with e-billing or equal pay options. Ricoh’s predictive modeling algorithms to determine which customers should receive each or any of these services notices.
    • Customer Segmentation: Our approach to segmentation allows utility marketers the unique opportunity to see a customer’s risk potential as well as their potential to engage in more services with the utility. This enables the utility marketer the chance to tailor offers, customize incentives, select marketing channels and specific content to targeted segments based on their risk and service potential.

For more information about the Customer Marketing Suite for Utility Companies, please visit: http://www.infoprint.com/internet/ipww.nsf/vwWebPublished/solss_customer-marketing-suite_en

Commentary from Senior Editor Cary Sherburne

I had the opportunity to speak in-depth with Mike Bryant, Worldwide Practice Leader for Strategy and Marketing Analytics, and Jay Robinson, Senior Solutions Consultant, Utility Market, to gain more information about this new offering from Ricoh for this WhatTheyThink exclusive commentary.

Ricoh has coined the term “Precision Marketing” to describe what most of us call TransPromo—a term that just sort of made its way into the mainstream and none of us really like. Precision Marketing is a better term, but trademarked by Ricoh.

Although Ricoh is planning to roll out these services to other industries in the future, according to Bryant, utilities was chosen to be the first one for a couple reasons: first, and largely due to the former InfoPrint Solutions’ IBM heritage, the company already has a strong presence in and knowledge of utilities. Secondly, we see utilities in the news every day, and not all of it is favorable. The industry is under pressure from both environmental and economic perspectives almost every day. In addition, this is an industry that has a huge amount of customer data—and that data is only increasing as more utilities are deploying smart meters that collect data to a very granular level—for example, Robinson explained, they can even tell if you installed a new fridge! And they can tell when and how you are consuming energy, allowing them to either recommend changes to the energy pattern, or charge higher fees for energy consumed during peak hours.

In addition, they are faced with regulatory changes that can be confusing for customers and bring additional pressure from local Public Utility Commissions to keep consumer costs in line.

All of this is further exacerbated by the increasing demand for energy our society has. Robinson says, “This is all about changing consumer behavior. If a utility can get consumers to reduce consumption by 5% to 10%, there is huge benefit to them in, for example, being able to delay the capital cost of building a new power plant.”

How do these new Ricoh services play into all of that? The company has already been providing print engines (color and black & white, toner and inkjet), composition and other software and hardware that enables these companies (and their service bureaus if they are not producing in-house) to produce and distribute customer communications, largely transactional documents. “The Customer Marketing Suite for Utility Companies is the missing piece of the puzzle,” says Bryant. “By using predictive modeling, we can help utility companies identify the customers who have the highest propensity to adopt a particular service. For example, if a utility has budget to launch a campaign to 100,000 users, we can help them identify which 100,000 customers are most likely to respond to the offer and they only need to communicate with those customers. This saves them money, and raises response rates by 2-3X.”

The company worked with a number of companies in the development process for this service to gather enough data upon which to build its predictive modeling offering, and as other utilities climb on board, the predictive modeling will only get better.

“This is getting the attention of marketers in utility companies,” added Robinson, “and really changes the conversation about how print, IT and mail in their companies can support their marketing efforts; it goes a long way toward breaking down the silos that have prevented Precision Marketing from really taking off. Armed with these services, and with real data we have been able to generate with our partner beta customers, we can more easily talk with the CMO, CEO, or CFO. The results we can show them are astounding, and we are quite excited about the impact this can have on the entire industry, while at the same time, looking forward to bringing these advantages to other industries down the road.”


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