Tiny Mighty Power, one of Mighty River Power's niche retail brands, has had an impressive year, with an 87 per cent jump in customer numbers more than tripling the business's revenue and delivering positive earnings before interest, tax and depreciation.
Tiny Mighty targets provincial New Zealand and currently supplies 13,000 residential and commercial customers in 19 smaller towns.
To serve such small markets profitably, Tiny Mighty operates a unique business model that focuses on being low-cost to serve, measured in its growth and an excellent provider of customer service. A key distinguishing characteristic of the company is its focus on "acting locally."
Unlike traditional national brands, Tiny Mighty bases most of its people and operations in the neighbourhoods where it sells power. It is the only electricity retailer to offer a network of retail shops that customers can visit to pay their bills, give feedback or make enquiries. More than 200 walk-ins and 800 calls per week are made to these offices, located in all of the key areas where Tiny Mighty conducts business - including Cambridge, Te Awamutu, Masterton, and Blenheim.
The offices are managed locally, local sales representatives are employed and, where possible, all purchasing is done locally. Marketing and advertising costs are kept low because Tiny Mighty believes its local staff and offices are the most effective ‘billboards' the company has. The retailer's presence has increased competition in provincial and rural areas, to the benefit of locals, who say that the direct access they have is a key reason for purchasing electricity from Tiny Mighty.
This entrepreneurial approach has seen the business run a minimalist head office structure, by developing remotely accessible operational processes, and smart telephone and customer relationship management systems. Sales functions are decentralised, overflow calls are outsourced and staff have broadly defined roles.
This model brings lower rent and employment costs, as well as allowing the company to hire and retain high-calibre staff. The management team takes a collaborative approach to decision making and encourages employees to show initiative and think outside traditionally defined roles. Staff are supported and connected to one another through an integrated phone system, instant messaging, Skype and a cloud-based CRM system.
To deliver that service at low cost, Tiny Mighty has implemented a series of innovations in the past year to streamline processes and enhance its customers' experience.
The first is an iPad application, which delivers sales routes to staff who are able to record a timed, dated and GPS-stamped outcome for each property visited. Staff are able to calculate price comparisons instantly and make offers to customers, complete the application to open an account and have customers sign on the iPad to secure contracts. Automated validation is used to check accuracy, saving valuable time and effort.
An innovative telephone system, provided by Telnet, is tailored to the needs of the business. Approximately 43 per cent of calls are picked up by the specific office to which they were directed. If that office is not able to answer the call, then it is rerouted through the Tiny Mighty network and 48 per cent of the time will be answered by another Tiny Mighty office manager.
Credit control has also been improved by increased use of SMS and outbound calling during the credit management process, while the instalment plan process has also been refined and automated. Refinement of the credit-checking process means a real-time credit check can be completed in 15 seconds.
In its first year of rating in the Consumer NZ annual survey of the retail electricity market, 76 per cent of Tiny Mighty customers were satisfied with the service provided - a result that placed it ahead of all the major retailers. An in-house survey found a similar ranking, with customers scoring the company an above-industry-average 7.7 out of 10 for satisfaction. In addition, Tiny Mighty lost just 19.5 per cent of customers in the past year, amid unprecedented customer switching which saw the wider industry churn average more than 21 per cent of customers.
The Energy Retailer of the Year Award category is sponsored by Chapman Tripp.