Sales Skills Provide Competitive Edge

When AGR Group launched its efforts in the deregulated energy industry in 2002, we made a visionary commitment to ourselves: our representatives would not be just “telemarketers,” but energy experts and professional sales consultants. After more than five million residential and customer sales, we can say it’s an approach that has served us well.

We don’t ask our clients to always be the low-price leader. All we need is a good product at a competitive price, and we’ll take care of the rest. We’re not afraid of the heavy lift, whether that’s pitching a price that’s premium to the utility or embracing small commercial campaigns from which our competition generally shies away.

Calling on small commercial isn’t an easy task, primarily because it’s usually not a “first call close.” Getting in touch with a decision maker takes perseverance, and selling your product takes professionalism and skill. Mere “telemarketers” will have limited success. At AGR Group, our motto has always been “If we can’t sell it, nobody can.” It was true when we started, and it still drives our business approach today.

Let’s talk today about how our energy professionals can get your product in front of the right target customer: the decision maker.

Colombia Call Center Recreates AGR Group Magic

AGR Group has built its reputation around experienced, hands-on management and a family atmosphere for its dedicated staff. It’s the “secret sauce” that keeps our stateside call centers humming along in service to our clients.

We’re now proud to say that we’ve successfully exported our dynamic work culture to our near-shore operation in Barranquilla, Colombia.

AGR Group opened the center just under one year ago, and it’s already a key strategic performer for our clients. Baranquilla native and call center veteran Bony Rodriguez joined the team as General Manager of Outbound Services, and she has the team hitting their targets while maintaining high morale.

“Opening a near-shore center is something AGR Group has discussed for years,” said Matt Judkin, CEO and President of Executive Energy Management. “Everyone in our industry is aware of the economic pressures on domestic call centers, and the opportunities that near-shore can provide.”

AGR Group management went through an exhaustive search of potential near-shore sites before finally settling on Colombia. Baranquilla has a tradition of call center operations, given its educated workforce and relatively neutral accent. The center was built out to specifications in a bustling Baranquilla business district.

Given the team spirit and statistical performance at AGR Colombia, our near-shore clients are in good hands.

Mercedes-Benz Eyes Solar Rooftops

Many investors were skeptical last year while billionaire Elon Musk started trying to merge two of his companies, Solar City and Tesla. He claimed that solar rooftops from Solar City should be combined with in-home battery packs and electric vehicles from Tesla. Eventually, the companies were merged and now Tesla is trying to market its groundbreaking, nearly-invisible solar panels as a key feature for the home of anyone that owns a Tesla car. It turns out some other companies do not think the idea is so crazy.

On May 18, carmaker Mercedes-Benz and Vivant Solar announced a “strategic collaboration” that sounds a lot like the merged Tesla. The two companies will join together to develop a residential home energy storage system that they say will combine Mercedes’ expertise with batteries and Vivant’s expertise with residential electricity systems. Vivant Solar has installed solar systems in more than 100,000 homes across the U.S., but it has yet to integrate battery storage into its offerings. Likewise, Mercedes has yet to pair its cars with the renewable recharging capabilities that many drivers seem to want. Both companies seem to see the partnership as a way to boost adoption of their own products. Vivant expects to give customers more control over their electricity, as having a battery backup greatly expands the usability of solar. Mercedes recently launched a similar home battery system in Europe and the company says that venture has been highly successful.

Mercedes and Vivant may have a leg up on Tesla when it comes to pricing. Tesla’s Powerwall 2 stores 14 kilowatt-hours of electricity and costs about $11,450. Tesla recommends one battery pack for most average sized homes. Mercedes, on the other hand, offers its battery packs as small as 2.5 kilowatt-hours at an expected price of about $5,000. For a home that does not need a lot of storage, it may be appealing to start with a smaller battery pack from Mercedes.

AGR Group has been offering consumers and business owners innovative energy solutions since 2002. As energy experts, we closely follow industry trends and look for new opportunities to expand our product lines. AGR Group has recently found success in offering solar installations through outbound telesales. Contact us to discuss how we can market your innovative solution.

Georgia Power Lets Consumers Buy In To Solar

In late February, Georgia Power continued with the rollout of its Simple Solar program, which allows customers to pay an extra penny per kilowatt-hour of electricity to get somewhere between 50% and 100% solar electricity.

The program was designed in collaboration with the state’s utility regulator, the Georgia Public Service Commission.  The money from the fee is used to purchase renewable energy credits from certified solar generation sources.  Of course, this means that the consumer may not actually be getting solar electricity directly, but for a relatively modest fee every ratepayer can help boost the development of renewable power projects.

Georgia Power says that the program will cost about an extra $10 per month for most consumers, and they can opt out of the extra fee at any time. The company admits the only real reason to pay the fee is to have “the opportunity to take an active role in improving our environment.”

There is widespread evidence, however, that consumers are willing to pay a modest fee to bolster the environment. For example, a few years ago a survey found that the public is willing to tolerate payments with an average of $199 per year to pay for renewable electricity. Florida Power and Light has apparently found success with its SolarNow program, which is very similar. It allows ratepayers to tack an extra $9 on to their monthly bill that will be used to fund solar projects in public areas, including parks, zoos, schools, and museums. The Georgia program appears to be a success so far, as well.  

AGR Group provides energy telemarketing and lead generation services to some of the largest retail energy suppliers in North America. Let our energy experts help grow your organic customer base. Contact us for a consultation.

Jimmy Carter’s Peanut Farm Housing Solar

38702473 - solar cell panel in solar farm close up in thailandOn February 8, former President Jimmy Carter cut the ribbon on a 10 acre, 1.3 megawatt solar plant on a peanut farm that will provide half the energy needs of his hometown of Plains, Georgia. President Carter is famous for putting solar panels on the roof of the White House to symbolically help combat the energy crunch that occurred during his tenure. The technology was probably not quite ready for prime time, though, and President Ronald Reagan promptly threw the panels in the trash after he was elected.

Now, President Carter has a cutting edge installation in place on his land. The project was developed, engineered and installed by Atlanta-based SolAmerica. It consists of a single-axis tracker solar array, which means rows of panels that will rotate to face the sun all day long. SolAmerica has signed a 25-year power purchase agreement with the local utility Georgia Power. In a press release announcing the project, President Carter said that he thinks that distributed generation like this project will be critical to meeting the growing energy needs of the world while fighting climate change.

Solar generation has doubled in America just since 2013, and that seems poised to continue even without subsidies that have helped the industry in the past. President Carter will only make about $7,000 annually for the use of his land and Plains is a rather small town with only a few hundred residents, so it is not an especially large installation. Utility companies are not the only ones negotiating power purchase agreements from installations this size. Governments, companies, and even consumers can often buy electricity with a power purchase agreement rather than simply accepting their utility’s tariffed rate.

AGR Group provides energy telemarketing and lead generation services to some of the largest retail energy suppliers in North America. Let our energy experts help grow your organic customer base. Contact us for a consultation

China Pulls the Plug on 103 Coal Plants

According to a January 18 story in the New York Times, the Chinese National Energy Administration just announced it is cancelling the construction of more than 100 coal-fired power plants. The move could have huge benefits for the climate, but that is not necessarily what is driving the decision. At the moment, even after this announcement, China is on track to build more electricity generation capacity than it actually needs. China’s state-owned power companies prefer to get their electricity from coal, and that helps explain why the country had dozens of new plants under construction even though many existing plants are idle more than half the time. China is also cutting into the need for new coal plants by installing a great deal of solar and wind power.

Many analysts see tremendous climate benefits in China’s announcement. China is cancelling 120 gigawatts of capacity, and to put that in perspective, the U.S. has about 305 gigawatts of coal capacity in total. So, China just cancelled the equivalent of a third of America’s coal power. Back in 2013, China was burning more coal than the rest of the world combined and the country’s coal usage looked poised to expand.  Since 2013, however, coal usage has actually declined as a slowing Chinese economy has combined with cheaper renewables and government policies aimed at reducing pollution. The end result could be a plateau of carbon emissions from China. That is significant, even though it will not stop the worst effects of climate change on its own.

Many of these cancelled coal plants were already under construction, meaning somebody will have to pay for work that will never lead to usable electricity. This happens sometimes in the United States as well, and here the costs of failed projects are often rolled into the tariffed utility rates paid by most customers.  In deregulated markets, however, customers can negotiate directly with utility companies to get better rates.

AGR Group provides energy telemarketing and lead generation services to some of the largest retail energy suppliers in North America. Let our energy experts help grow your organic customer base. Contact us for a consultation.

New Eagle Rules Set Up to Help Wind Turbines

Bald EagleDespite the benefits of wind power, the reality is that wind turbines do kill some flying animals while in operation. Modern wind turbines can be as tall as a 30-story building, and the tips of its rotors spin incredibly fast, sometimes up to 170 miles per hour. This is a particular challenge for endangered animals like eagles, because it is generally illegal to harm an eagle or other endangered animal. The process of getting a permit to install a turbine that may or may not hit some eagles can be very complicated, but on December 14 the Obama Administration issued some new rules to make the process easier.

The rule will allow 4,200 bald eagles and 2,000 golden eagles to be killed or injured by wind turbines over the next 30 years. Instead of dealing with each turbine completely individually, the federal government is setting up processes that will protect eagles at all turbine locations. This will include careful documentation of risks in a particular site and then setting up the necessary protections.

Common methods to protect birds and bats include radar, GPS tracking, ultrasonic acoustics, adjusting blade speed, and painting blades so they are more visible to the birds. Radar and GPS can be used to locate bird flocks and slow down blades while they are passing through the area. Blades can also be slowed down at low wind speeds, because that is when some birds and bats prefer to travel. Blades can be painted colors that do not attract bugs, and therefore attract fewer birds. More common tactics are warning birds and bats. This is usually done with ultrasonic “boom boxes” that put off loud high-frequency sounds that birds and bats do not like.  

President Obama has taken a number of steps to boost wind production, and many companies and individuals are moving towards paying extra for wind power. The experts at AGR Group can inform you of your solar options. Contact us today for a free consultation.

New York Invests in Solar for the Non-Rich

7885173 - solar panels on the roof of modern skyscraperOne persistent criticism of solar-power incentives is that they primarily benefit rich people that do not need tax breaks to survive. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on December 6 that he would try to do something about that. The state will provide $3.6 million aimed directly at individuals with low or moderate incomes. It will be awarded to affordable housing providers and other community organizations to help them overcome the challenges of installing solar energy projects. The funds will be available to communities that earn less than 80% of the median income.  

The Governor cited multiple barriers to the solar market, including financing, procurement, marketing, and customer outreach. He is not the first person to tackle these challenges. Steamboat Springs, Colorado has invested in community solar gardens that the less fortunate can earn a share of by helping install them. In Woodland, California, a nonprofit developer installed solar panels that offset electricity bills for its farmworker tenants. And the White Earth Nation tribe in Minnesota created a nonprofit that hangs solar panels on the south-facing sides of low-income homes. Governor Cuomo’s funds will be disbursed on a competitive basis to applicants that propose projects like these that are both economically viable and beneficial to low and moderate-income communities.  

This investment is being touted as part of Gov. Cuomo’s NY-Sun effort to rev up the solar industry with $1 billion in investment. It comes at an interesting time for the state’s electricity markets, which were partially deregulated 17 years ago. The state’s public utility commission announced recently that it will review the electricity and natural gas markets because “the retail markets servicing mass-market customers are not providing sufficient competition or innovation to properly serve customers.” States vary, but in deregulated states customers can often slash their electricity bill by negotiating directly with their utility. The experts at AGR Group can tell you how with a free consultation. Contact us today.

Fresh Approach Changes the Acquisition Game

Everyone knows the old Albert Einstein quote that says the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

northamericanBut you’d be surprised how many energy suppliers run their sales operations that way. Same old sales channels, same old approach, hoping to squeeze just a little bit more out of the tried-and-true.

Is your company mapping out any new strategies, or will 2017 be much the same as this year? Given the never-ending growth of the Do Not Call list and the trend of giving up home numbers in favor of cell phones, how will you connect with your target customers?

AGR Group and its data source partner, All Global Resources, have developed an opt-in program that is delivering a desirable customer demographic to our energy partners: higher income, online savvy and ‘stickier’ than average. Best of all, these customers were previously considered to be “unreachable.”

The opt-in program is facilitated through partner websites where customers indicate a willingness to be contacted with offers from various service providers. That data is immediately routed to our call center, where a representative places the call to the interested customer.

The program is fully compliant with TCPA, TSR and the E-sign act, and we maintain all necessary record keeping.

Changing times require a new approach. Our opt-in program is proven safe and effective, and could be just the strategy to help you reach your goals. Call us today to gear up for 2017!

AGR Nevada Recognizes Veterans Service

agr_vetVeterans Day always provides occasion for heartfelt recognition at AGR Group offices. It’s especially solemn at AGR Nevada, where All Global Resources General Manager Dan Rieke, a Vietnam-era Navy veteran, leads the reflections.

In honor of our veterans, Dan wrote the following and delivered an address to the staff.

Two hundred forty years ago, a sleeping beauty awoke for the first time from a slumber that began at the dawn of man…and her name was Liberty.

And she cast a newborn eye across a land of plenty, and troubled times. For her people struggled with the tyranny of an unjust government, and a world without rights.

And her people needed rescue…So she created the Veteran.

She needed someone too young to vote, unable to read, owning nothing, yet willing to pick up a rifle and win for her people the right to vote.

She needed someone to skip dinner, lift a hundred-pound pack on their back, hike 20 miles through the rain, dig a ditch, lay down in the mud, and sleep for thirty minutes…then get up and do it all over again.

She needed someone to say goodbye to family and friends, sweethearts and unborn children, and travel to unknown shores so they could jump on a grenade to save the life of another.

Someone to leap from a helicopter into icy waters and swim a thousand yards in a hurricane to save a drowning dog.

Someone to calm a terrified child, dig survivors from the rubble, run into a burning building, and unload food for starving villagers…All while under enemy fire.

She needed them to travel across the world, lose a leg, return home, and learn how to walk again.

And then learn to flip burgers, dump trash, mop floors, and thank a customer for a tip for the rest of their lives.

And she needed them to do all that having only asked them once.

And in the end, after all the sacrifice and despair that appends itself to war, and peace, her quiet thank you would be the draped flag adorning her silent hero lying there, a humble goodbye to one who helped her stand…

Her veteran.

Dan Rieke
11 November, 2016

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