While primarily recognised as an energy utility, E.ON has its sights set on diversification, including into the emerging market for Electronic Vehicles (EV) via its E.ON Drive initiative.
It’s a bold ambition to build one of the largest EV charging networks across Europe, with the goal of having over 180 Ultra Fast chargers that can charge a 400 km range car in around 20-30 minutes in place by 2020.
Hannah Collishaw, Director of E.ON Drive UK, argues that the looming revolution in transportation is akin to the transformational one at the start of the 20th century when the combustion engine brought cars onto roads that had previously been the domain of the horse and carriage. That revolution also brought about the rise of pollution, a less-than-beneficial development, but one which today is fuelling interest in EVs. Collishaw notes:
The reason we do what we do is to support our purpose within E.ON of leading the energy transition. It's about transitioning towards a lower carbon future. With various legislation policies and the growing expectation for clean air, a combination of different things is really starting to drive adoption of electric vehicles. And whilst has been steady growth in that, what you see is that year-on-year, the actual rise in EVs outstrips what was forecast. And this is what you tend to see when a market is gaining pace.
It's not a question of if, it's a question of when we will see this take off. So, it's about entering ourselves into the market and understanding what customers need and putting ourselves in a position so that we can be agile as the market evolves, in order to shape the proposition we offer for our customers. What they need is critically, really important.
That said, there’s a simple day-to-day mission statement for Collishaw and her colleagues:
Our purpose with E.ON Drive each day is to electrify people's journeys. I think it's a fantastic purpose to have. And what we do is we help businesses and consumers to do that by providing charging solutions.
While E.ON is an established global brand in its own right, E.ON Drive is still in its infancy with Collishaw stating:
I'm effectively running a start-up business within the corporate environment. So everything that we've done in terms of setting up E.ON Drive is to try and adopt that kind of start-up mentality to allow us the agility to react to this market as it emerges and changes.
That youthful status brings the benefit of having no legacy IT systems in place, which in turn has led to E.ON Drive tapping into Salesforce’s cloud tech to support its operations:
We operate across eight countries in Europe. We are providing everything across the whole value chain from supply in hardware, design and installation and then the ongoing operation and maintenance and also the servicing of the end user.
Everything we do is to try and be smart, sustainable and personalized. So when we were establishing the team and looking at how we would go to market, it was very important to me to look at having something that would give us agility and that would allow us to build the experience of which we built a foundation on which we could get trust in the market.
Talking to customers, researching our competitors that are already in the market and taking the knowledge that we have in the learnings from other markets, told us that building trust in this market for the end driver, as well as for the businesses that we work with, is super, super important.
So what we've done is we've launched with the Sales and Service Cloud elements of Salesforce. We've got a fully-integrated platform. We have a single view of our customers and our products and services. And this means that when we're talking to businesses, because we've got Salesforce implemented in other areas of the business and sales teams, we're able to see what products and services they have across the piece - full end-to-end measurement.
It was a fast implementation, she adds:
We were able to design, scope and launch the Service Cloud within two months. It was pretty quick. And I think the real key to that was having a really engaged team that have really driven that.
Salesforce now supports the entire customer journey with E.ON Drive, explains Collishaw:
From initial inquiry or lead through to business development, we manage opportunities, leads and opportunities through [Salesforce]. One of the big things that it's allowed us to do is to really understand which customers are more likely to convert or are more likely to have a need for our solutions right now, which is helping us to better pinpoint the ones that we want to target. So it's building efficiency, but supporting us from a sales perspective as well. When we're part way through the sales process and we've done pre-qualification - which is another area in which we've been able to harvest some benefit from understanding what's required there - we will go out and do some form of site survey. Typically, if we're working with a business customer, we’ll go out and do the site survey and that information will come back into the system.
And from that point we're able to produce a quote based on the work that's required at that site and from the point that the sale is agreed, that hands over to our delivery teams, who manage contract and project delivery. At this point our internal teams will be project managing that. In some cases we'll use our own installation services, but in other cases we’re using third party supply chain as well. So this has given us kind of real robust rigor around where we are in that process and allows us to track the end-to-end journey to resolve any issues as they arise, but also gives visibility to the sales teams in terms of where we are in that process. From that point onwards, we'll manage the installation and the assets that we have and that's allowing us to both manage those assets proactively and reactively.
E.ON Drive operates a 24/7 contact center, says Collishaw:
Salesforce really sits at the heart of that operation that we are building. Of course we're still quite small, but as we scale, that sits at the heart of what we're doing there…We're aiming to deliver personalized, effortless experiences. The platform allows our customers to choose how they want to interact with us. So whether that be via email or if they want to contact us by phone, but all of that is managed through the system and allows us to resolve issues pretty swiftly.
With E.ON Drive being a reality now, there’s an inevitable development on that last point:
Being just over a year into the market, we're starting to obviously see the first routine maintenance occurring and that's working pretty well… From a more reactive perspective, if we get a contact from either a business customer or an end driver to let us know that there's a potential fault with one of our posts out in the field, this allows us to diagnose and understand whether that's something that we can either resolve remotely or whether we need to send somebody out to the site and how urgent that is. [Salesforce] has given us end-to-end visibility.
That’s crucial to have in place, adds Collishaw:
One of the biggest, really most important things is network availability. It's important for our customers in terms of providing that service to their employees and customers...As an EV driver, it's pretty fundamental that when you get [to a charging post], if you need to charge, you can do and that you can quickly contact us if there should be an issue. The other reason this is important is because commercially for some of our customers, this is a revenue stream and in some cases for us… We're seeing real success from having implemented the system. We have a 99% uptime in terms of the availability of the network. I'm quite excited to see how we can evolve that to support us as we grow.
In terms of learning, Collishaw makes it clear that E.ON Drive is picking up more knowledge as it grows:
We're really understanding where in the process we can make improvements as we go. I think one of the biggest recommendations I would give from our experience is to start with a minimum viable product, not trying to, you know, boil the whole ocean, and iterate from there. That's proven really successful for us. The teams genuinely have been engaged in this and love using the system because of that.
It is, she concludes, a hugely exciting time for the transportation sector:
The market is gaining pace rapidly. It's almost quite hard to keep abreast actually of the different partnerships and acquisitions that are occurring across the value chain. This is a market in which you have the OEMs and the oil majors, the energy suppliers, all kind of involved in that. Those that will be successful will be those that put the customer and the end user at the heart of what they do, but also those that have the ability to be agile and adapt their approaches as we undersatnd more about that market.