The best CRM platform for energy companies

Digital CRM platforms will play a decisive role for energy supply companies in the future. "The customer is king!" - this phrase often comes up when municipal utilities or other energy supply companies talk about customer centricity, communication and relationships. But how can utilities treat someone like a king when they hardly know them? The answer is by (finally) getting to know him! With fully comprehensive customer relationship management solutions, utilities put the customer at the center of all their sales, marketing and service activities. This is the only way to succeed in evolving from a pure product provider to a service provider and customer-focused platform operator.

With the help of suitable CRM platforms, energy suppliers can achieve customer-focused action and excellent customer service. Without it, it won't work. This fifth and final part of my article series "Customer Centricity in Municipal Utilities" is therefore about the selection of suitable CRM solutions for utilities: which solutions are available on the market, what they do, what advantages and disadvantages they have, and how to proceed methodically when evaluating and introducing new CRM solutions. First of all, here is an overview of the CRM building blocks and business areas

Becoming a digital platform operator with CRM platforms

If utilities want to be customer-focused platform operators in the future, instead of pure product providers as they have been for the most part in the past, they need to start fundamentally changing their internal organization today. They must say goodbye to complex, hierarchically structured organizational charts, because you look for the customer there in vain. They must break away from current ways of thinking in departmental silos and instead address the higher goals and deeper meaning (Purpose). The customer must play the central role in their vision and mission. He must not only be the final destination of the endless power and water lines, but also the first priority of all entrepreneurial action.

Customer experience is critical to the future viability of municipal energy and utility companies. A consistent positive experience as well as offers and services tailored to the individual needs of the customer are decisive success criteria in competition. In this context, the sovereign management of customer and behavioral data plays a decisive role. To identify customers' needs and product preferences, utilities need intelligent, central data hubs for all business processes. With their help, they can offer their customers the relevant information and interaction options at the right moment on their customer journey. They form the foundation for digital CRM solutions and customer experience platforms on which utilities can seamlessly connect customers with all ecosystem participants. Other benefits include more efficient business processes and the development of new added values for the customer.

Next: CRM platforms, but low code

Most utilities still use ERP solutions to map outward-facing processes in marketing, sales and service. Very quickly, the limits of what is technically possible are reached, as such solutions were originally designed for internal process flows. Over the last few years, many utilities have tried to solve this pain point by introducing additional tools. Especially in the marketing environment, newsletter and mailing tools were introduced, separate databases for customer segmentation were built and filled with redundant data, or offline-capable mobile devices for service technician use were developed. More and more isolated solutions and thus new data silos were created, which meant that a desired 360° customer view could never be achieved.

Some utilities have been using fully comprehensive CRM solutions to manage customer data for years. However, they usually fail to generate the hoped-for added value from these often outdated technologies. Yesterday's good solutions will not be able to fully solve today's digital challenges, let alone achieve tomorrow's ambitious goals. A modern and technologically advanced CRM solution does not necessarily have to be complex and come from the cloud. But it must be a kind of "low code CRM platform" that enables rapid deployment of new and smart business applications with a minimum of manual programming and minimal investment in infrastructure, hardware, setup and training. It must also offer an appealing design, customizability, and connectivity to numerous online services.

Which of the many CRM platforms is the best fit?

Like all other companies, utilities are faced with a seemingly unsolvable question at the very beginning of the selection of a CRM solution: Which system from this opaque CRM jungle fits my company? Extensive functional scopes of the various CRM solutions and over 100 providers on the market make decision-making difficult. As soon as you start to take a closer look at the individual solutions, you quickly realize that none of the solutions covers all requirements and satisfies all departments and areas. This raises the question, does it even have to? Does the new CRM solution have to be able to solve all my future challenges on the way to a data-driven and customer-focused organization? No, it doesn't have to! Nor can it. A CRM system must provide a stable platform with many suitable tools to implement all the individual solution ideas of a utility and to ensure the best possible customer experience and satisfaction.

Vertical CRM platforms

Before I go into detail about the selected CRM platforms, it is necessary at this point to address another question that has been asked time and again. Namely: Wouldn't it be cheaper and smarter today to develop your own CRM solution based on the available cloud computing platforms such as AWS or MS Azure instead of a standard solution from well-known CRM providers? I can answer this question with a clear "no", because EVUs are not ready for such proprietary solutions. My esteemed colleague Stefan Aumüller puts it in a nutshell with the following statement: "Complete in-house developments require the unconditional will to differentiate oneself from the competition, a permanently designed IT strategy, consistent implementation, and the support of top management." The combination of the aforementioned prerequisites is hardly given at any energy supply company. Therefore, relying on standard CRM platforms is the only correct recommendation for energy supply companies.

Today, the software market offers a variety of standardized CRM platforms. Many of the well-known CRM vendors and service providers have developed vertical industry solutions for EVUs based on these powerful platforms. Three such solutions, Salesforce, SAP and Microsoft, are presented below.

Salesforce 360 for Utilities

Salesforce is the world's leading CRM platform. Under the name "Salesforce 360 for Utilities", Salesforce bundles industry-specific solutions for the energy and utilities industry to support customer service, sales and marketing for residential, business, commercial and industrial customers. With this industry-specific solution, utilities in the customer-centric, digital age are able to deploy their innovative and digital customer applications on a single agile platform and connect with all existing back-office billing systems.

"Salesforce 360 for Utilities is a cloud solution designed specifically for utilities. It accelerates the implementation of CRM applications and the connection of digital communication channels, enabling utilities to transform their customer interfaces faster and thereby offer an optimal digital customer experience.

The CRM platform "Salesforce 360 for Utilities" resulted from the acquisition of the Vlocity solution by Salesforce in 2020. Vlocity has already maintained a very close partnership cooperation with powercloud GmbH in the past. While Salesforce will focus on industry-specific CRM processes after the acquisition of Vlocity, the combination with powercloud provides a reliable basis for the processing and billing of electricity, gas, heat, water and wastewater as well as products and services.

Currently, around 8 million end customers are served via the powercloud solutions. A further 17 million end customers are in the process of migration. This means that in just eight years, powercloud has grown to become the most successful standard cloud platform in the energy industry. The combination of Salesforce 360 for Utilities and powercloud offers utilities a scalable digital platform based on modern software architecture.

SAP Cloud for Utilities

Over the past 20 years, SAP IS-U has been the top dog among enterprise solutions used in the energy and utilities industry. SAP IS-U focused on automating and optimizing internal process flows rather than customer centricity and customer experience. This was also not necessary, as utilities were predominantly concerned with internal processes. With the strong competitive pressure in the last three to four years, SAP has developed and launched new platforms for the energy industry. One of these is SAP C4U (Cloud for Utilities). This cloud system puts the customer at the center of new business models and offers EVUs efficient, modular and scalable digital services.

The basis for SAP Cloud for Utilities is provided by the well-known and powerful C/4HANA platform with its four standardized cloud solutions Marketing, Sales, Service and Commerce. By extending the proven framework with industry-specific best practice solutions such as Intelligent Asset Management, Cloud for Energy, Subscription Billing, Cloud for Contract Accounting and Invoicing, and Cloud for Market Communication, a fully comprehensive customer experience platform for utilities has been created.

Microsoft Dynamics 365

Many utilities rely on Microsoft's Power BI for business intelligence solutions to extract valuable insights from existing data on water, gas and electricity supply and consumption. Due to a very strong technology compatibility, CRM Dynamics Platform from Microsoft also comes into question. If a utility company sets a strong focus on building a data-driven customer experience platform, Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Power BI provide the appropriate foundation for digitization. With the new user interface of the Microsoft Dynamics 365 customer engagement platform, also known as the Unified Client Interface, a modern application has been available since October 1, 2020.

Since Microsoft does not offer an industry-specific CRM solution for utilities as standard, numerous service providers have used the CRM platform to build CRM industry solutions on top of it for the specific requirements of the energy industry. Although the solution approaches of different service providers differ significantly, they are based on the same technological foundation of Microsoft's standard CRM software. Microsoft Dynamics 365 offers a major advantage to those utilities that already rely on ERP and BI solutions from Microsoft or on the Azure cloud computing platform.


Another CRM solution for EVUs is offered by CURSOR Software AG. In contrast to SAP, Salesforce and Microsoft, the company from Giessen has focused on the needs and process flows of EVUs from the very beginning and offers two CRM solutions with special functions for energy suppliers, municipal utilities, energy service providers and for electricity and gas network operators. EVI is a CRM system tailored to the needs of the energy industry. With TINA, network operators get a fully comprehensive CRM and network management system for day-to-day business. It is used to manage network contracts, market partner communication, device and fault management, and business processes in accordance with defined standards of the German Federal Network Agency.

Both CRM solutions focus strongly on the optimization and automation of internal, cross-departmental process flows of the utilities. Both the complex energy industry data model and the specific processes of the individual divisions (electricity, gas, water, district heating, waste disposal, telecommunications, etc.) are already mapped in the CRM solution from CURSOR and aligned with the requirements of the utilities. CRM systems from CURSOR are not so much suitable for the development of digital online customer experience platforms, but for the optimal support of users from marketing, sales, service and customer interaction centers in the operative daily business.


Are strongly industry-focused CRM solutions really what companies need in the age of digitalization and personalization, and can the desired differentiation from the competition be achieved with these solutions? This or something similar was ADITO's question. Therefore, the CRM solution provider from Bavaria decided to build a platform for marketing, sales and service that can be individually and flexibly configured and expanded at any time. According to the motto "A software should always adapt to the company, not the other way around", EVUs can realize their new digital business ideas individually and quickly in ADITO's CRM platform.

The usability of ADITO's xRM platform was completely redesigned in 2019 to be very lean, clean and intuitive. The user-friendly, innovative "look and feel" of the customer experience platform was awarded the internationally renowned Red Dot Award in the category "Interface & User Experience Design" at the end of 2019. ADITO's CRM solution offers numerous open interfaces and is based on modern technologies. It is particularly suitable for consolidating and uniformly providing customer information and thus for building a customer experience platform. Although the industry-specific objects and processes of the utilities are not preconfigured in this platform, they can be highly flexibly adapted or redesigned.

The power of digital CRM platforms

Many examples show how increasing digitization and new platform operators are significantly changing entire industries forever: Audio streaming service Spotify has turned the music industry on its head. The delivery service Lieferando has changed the restaurant industry. Amazon has revolutionized our shopping behavior and retail. The online reservation portal Airbnb has changed the tourism and hotel industry. Such examples can be listed almost at will. What all these companies have in common is that they rely specifically on digital technologies and IT solutions and largely dispense with traditional products. By building highly scalable platforms, such companies can grow very quickly, claim the revenues of the respective industry for themselves in the shortest possible time, and gain market share.

If energy utilities do not want to make their business dependent on platforms such as or check24 in the future, they must become platform providers themselves, because a well-designed digital platform is the perfect intelligent interface to the customer. It enables EVUs to obtain relevant customer data, apply new forms of personalized communication, and thus offer personalized products and services.

They also offer enormous added value for consumers, because the platform business model fits perfectly with the expectations of today's, and above all tomorrow's, digital customers.

Only with the help of a digital platform economy and the right CRM platforms can utilities successfully master the upcoming transformation - from product centricity to customer centricity.