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Lisa Varga of Phoenix Energy Technologies on the Importance of Collaborating with Your Customers

3 min. read

"Data is the currency of the future" for energy savings

My latest interview from our "Scaling Green on the Scene" booth at the September 16th CleanTech OC 2013 Conference and Expo is with Lisa Varga, Founder and CEO of Phoenix Energy Technologies (PhoenixET). According to its website, the company is "a leading provider of Enterprise Energy Management (EEM) Software and Enterprise Energy Management Services...[working] with commercial, retail and higher education customers to diagnose opportunities and implement strategies that reduce energy consumption and costs."

My first question to Varga was about how PhoenixET has managed to become one of the fastest growing companies in America. According to Varga, "It's really understanding your customer and knowing what the market need is, and being nimble enough to answer those needs or their pain; that's what's made us successful."

One of those customers is Office Depot. On its website, PhoenixET offers Office Depot as a case study of how, by providing a "complete energy management solution, Office Depot gained enterprise visibility, actionable information and improved performance for their building portfolio of 1,100 locations." Office Depot also achieved an impressive 61% Return on Investment, with annual energy savings of $2.2 million. In our interview, Varga elaborated on how all that was accomplished:

[Office Depot was] one of our early adopters. We work collaboratively with each client and better understand their business....The base project of what we do is tie everything together... "data is the currency of the future," and it truly is for these clients, because they're spread out across the country, and unlike a campus, it's very hard to integrate that information, very costly as well... So, we were able to accomplish that with software and then work collaboratively with the client to see how they do business today and where we can take them in the future once we have that data all in one area.  From that, once you get that data together, you start looking at a proactive management solution of what's going bump in the night, other than just this room is hot or this room is cold...Things are functioning on the rooftops that they don't even see.  So, it may be a month of two down the road that they're hemorrhaging expenses in energy that they don't see until their comfort is affected.  So, we look at that real time and go into a proactive mode with them.

Finally, I asked Varga about a topic I discussed earlier this year with Paul De Martini of the Newport Consulting Group - namely, the importance of achieving "a deeper level of engagement with customers, as well as tying into social business as a way to approach that engagement." Varga agreed that customer engagement and communication is crucial.

We have an interesting dynamic because our customers are who we face with, but they actually have the consumer who they face with. So, anything we do on our end is a trickle-down effect to the building. Their ultimate goal is "don't affect sales." ...So constant collaboration...we collaborate, but how can we push that out to their consumers walking into that building [so that consumer] know what they're doing from a sustainability or demand response effort?  So, we're actually looking at some technologies as well to figure out when [consumers] walk in, is there a smart phone application that [says] this building is in demand response, or is there a kiosk that shows on a screen that [the retail outlet is] going through some effort to save energy and obviously to impact us all financially. [One phrase is] "We're saving energy and curtailing our load so your home can be comfortable." And that really resonates with the customers, so they're willing to take that little extra discomfort if the temperature's warmer than they would like it. So, collaboration has been the key to our success at Phoenix.

The bottom line is that no matter how good your cleantech product or service, the key is still always going to be communicating effectively with clients/customers, and even positioning them to communicate successfully with their customers.