Illinois Energy Choice Reaches Milestone

Illinois reached a noteworthy milestone recently when it surpassed one million residential customers receiving competitive electric supply from an alternate provider.

AGR Group has been providing energy telemarketing services in Illinois for a long time, so we feel a certain amount of pride in seeing energy choice break seven digits.

“It’s a fantastic growth story for the state,” AGR President Matt Judkin said. “It’s kind of like breaking into the big leagues. Only a handful of states have reached that kind of energy choice awareness and participation, and we’re proud to have played a role.”

Illinois joins states like Texas, Pennsylvania, New York and Ohio as the big hitters of energy deregulation. And it’s happened fast. According to a report by Plug-In Illinois, the number of residential customers taking competitive supply was less than 120,000 at the end September 2011. A year later, the number stands at 1.3 million.

Deregulation of the energy markets began with The Illinois Electric Service Customer Choice and Rate Relief Law of 1997. That legislation split the state’s two largest electric monopolies, Ameren and Commonwealth Edison, and allowed only commercial and industrial customers to choose a Retail Electric Supplier (RES). Currently, alternate providers provide about 75% of the electricity consumed by Illinois’ commercial and industrial customers.

Residential and small businesses were not allowed to choose an RES as part of the 1997 restructuring, but the Illinois Commerce Commission, which oversees public utilities, dropped the rates significantly and froze them for 10 years. Competition officially opened for those customers in 2002, but the rate caps made the market uncompetitive. By 2011, market factors finally made alternative offers attractive, and the switch rates have risen dramatically.

“AGR Group has been offering energy products on behalf of our clients for more than 10 years,” Judkin said. “We’ve seen competitive markets ebb and flow, and it’s always exciting to see them on the upswing.”

AGR Group provides the finest sales and customer support services in the retail energy industry. If you are a competitive energy supplier looking to grow your customer base through energy telemarketing, door-to-door energy sales or lead generation, contact us for a consultation.

Veteran Energy Telesales Team Member Named Executive Director for AGR Florida

Congratulations to longtime management team member Gary Cronin, recently named Executive Director of AGR Florida.

AGR Group has provided the finest energy telemarketing service in the retail energy industry for more than 10 years. In fact, we modestly consider ourselves one of the sales pioneers of energy deregulation. We’ve been doing it longer and better than anyone else.

We’ve connected hundreds of thousands of customers with our clients over the years, and our production is unrivaled. But we’re equally known for our sales quality. It’s what keeps our clients coming back, and Gary is a big reason for the success.

As Director of Quality Control since 2003, Gary has overseen the training, monitoring and correction of our energy telesales representatives in Florida. “Protect the integrity of the sale,” is his driving motivation, and his dedication to that principal has helped build our reputation.

“I don’t believe there is a call center in the industry that can offer the overall product and service that we can,” he says. “Our combination of sales volume and quality is unique.”

In his new post, Gary now oversees all facets of the sales floor, but his years as guardian of the company’s reputation for quality will continue to shape his leadership style.

“As much as anybody on the management team, Gary understands what makes AGR Group special,” said AGR Group President Matt Judkin. “It’s dedication to quality, superior technique and always serving our clients’ best interest. He’s been a big part of our history to this point, and he’s deserving of this new opportunity.”

AGR Group provides the finest sales and customer support services in the retail energy industry. If you are a competitive energy supplier looking to grow your customer base through energy telemarketing, door-to-door energy sales or lead generation, contact us for a consultation.

Energy Telesales Team Honors Month’s Best

AGR Group has built a reputation as the finest provider of energy telemarketing services in the retail energy industry. We have great clients, passionate ownership and experienced management.

But our success boils down to the hard work and dedication of those wearing the headsets. Our sales people and quality monitors provide the energy and skill that drives us forward, and we never get tired of recognizing outstanding achievement.

The energy telesales call center in Santa Ana, Calif., is proud to announce Ashley Miller as Top Sales Representative and Suzy Serrato as Top Monitor for the month of August.

Suzy Serrato
Energy telemarketing is typically a high turnover business, as not everyone is cut out for the hard work of customer outreach. But AGR Group enjoys an average employee tenure much longer than industry average, and Suzy has been with us since 2004.

She has been an inbound receptionist and a verifier, and joined the Monitoring Department six months ago. She’s been a top performer in every department, and last month provided qualitative feedback on more than 1,000 calls.

“I love the energetic, motivating environment and the camaraderie between coworkers at AGR,” she said. “It makes coming to work a much more positive experience.”

Ashley Miller
As the Top Sales Representative in the California office, Ashley closed 118 commercial sales for the month. She has previously been honored as Top Rep of the week, but this is the first time she’s taken the monthly prize in her two years on the phones.

“I love my job and what I do,” Ashley said. “This job supports me and my family and I wouldn’t want to work anywhere else.”

That says it all. Congratulations Suzy and Ashley.

AGR Group provides the finest sales and customer support services
in the retail energy industry. If you are a competitive energy supplier looking to grow your customer base through energy telemarketing, door-to-door energy sales or lead generation, contact us
for a consultation.

Smart Meters And Energy Deregulation

AGR Group is a leader in retail energy telemarketing services. We’re born of energy deregulation, and we’re big fans of innovation.

Energy competition brings increased choices and lower prices to the consumer. Technology can do the same, of course, and when paired together they can be a powerful combination.

Which brings us to today’s question: What exactly is a “Smart Meter,” and why should you care?

Hang on – this won’t be too painful.

Energy deregulation was designed to introduce competition to the electricity industry and drop costs to consumers through market-driven pricing. But forecasting pricing through mathematical models is a best-guess scenario.

It’s an ongoing challenge for energy companies to match consumption with generation. Electricity can’t really be stored on a mass level (think battery-power cites), yet we all need the electricity to be there when we hit the switch. The challenge is that there are times when we collectively use more power than others (think hot workday afternoon vs. Sunday morning).

So power companies rely on a series of generation plants to try to meet the varying demand. Some are churning away all the time (they’re called base load plants), and some kick on only when demand is high (called peak load plants). Peak load plants are far less efficient, as they have to be at full capacity in a moment’s notice, and generally run on fossil fuels. So peak energy is more expensive.

Power suppliers predict what demand might be (based on weather and other factors), and what the mix of base load vs. peak load might be, and come up with an average price to charge the customer.

But wouldn’t it be cool (ok, “Smart,”) to have a meter that determined the cost of the electricity you were using at any particular moment? What if that data could be delivered immediately via email or text message to the homeowner? That would certainly lead to electricity product innovation and increased conservation (or so goes the argument). And it has, but not without controversy. We’ll explore more in future posts.

California Energy Telesales Team Honors July’s Best

Recognizing and congratulating our employees for a job well done is a deep tradition at AGR Group. As we’ve highlighted in prior blog posts, we’ve got The Game, The Jerseys, and the Wall of One, among others.

Rashid

Those programs are creative and fun, to be sure, but none of them eclipse the simple power and pride of the old standby: employee of the month.

At our corporate call center headquarters, in Santa Ana, Calif., the first of the month brings the announcement. For July, we recognize Rashid Alam as Energy Telesales Representative of the Month, and Lucas Ardema as Monitor of the Month.

Lucas
Rashid has been with AGR Group for a little more than a year, and in July he helped 163 commercial customers find a better deal on their business electricity or natural gas. “Persistence and determination are two key factors that keep me moving ahead, day in and day out,” he said.

Quality Assurance is a primary focus for AGR Group, and our monitors play a crucial role in ensuring a smooth customer experience. Lucas, who has been with AGR Group since Oct. 2010, was the most active monitor of the month, offering feedback on more than 840 calls. He also credits drive and determination for his success.

“Our staff works very hard at what they do,” AGR Group President Matt Judkin said. “They take pride in their work and care about the company. We are in this together as a team, but we also try to recognize great individual performance whenever we can.”

Energy Telesales Teams Enjoy Friendly Competition

The prize is legendary. The competition, fierce. The announcement, nerve-wracking. At AGR Group, that can only mean one thing. The Game.

Granted, that’s not much of a description, but The Game has taken on mythic status among the energy telesales employees of AGR Group. It’s an annual contest that celebrates and rewards team excellence in a variety of categories and sales-and-service-oriented metrics.

The finish line is our annual party in Las Vegas in the fall, where executives, top salespeople and client representatives from across the country meet and mingle to celebrate the year’s accomplishments.

Last year's winner
The fancy affair always features a rousing address by AGR Group President Matt Judkin, recognition of long-time employee tenure, and of course a fantastic party. But it’s the announcement of The Game winner that creates much of the anticipation.

Last year, it was Vice President Steve Upham’s Florida division that came away victorious, hoisting a Lombardi-like trophy that resembles football’s top prize. This year, AGR Group is keeping the football theme, but along with the trophy that sits on the shelf, they’ll be some that you wear on your finger. Champs.

“The rings are going to be awesome,” Judkin said. “We had such a good time with the football theme last year, so we wanted to kick it up a notch. Our energy telesales representatives work so hard throughout the year, and they enjoy this competition so much, that we want to do all we can to make it memorable.”

Each call center location, from California to Las Vegas to Florida, represents a football team of their choosing. The standings are determined by weekly results in categories such as net sales, calls handled and talk time. As the Las Vegas event approaches, the weekly results are hidden to build the excitement.

In mid-July, AGR Florida had a comfortable lead in looking to defend its title, but the standings have a way of tightening down the stretch.

“Employee morale and camaraderie is a big factor in the telesales business,” Judkin said, “and we take pride in the spirit we’ve been able to build. The Game is just one example in a corporate culture that has sustained us through more than 10 years of energy telemarketing.”

Stay tuned.

Energy Conservation Can Pay Off in New Jersey

Conservation of electricty in the home is equally as important as locking in a low rate with a competitive energy supplier. At AGR Group, we’re all about hitting the lights when you leave the room. Makes sense for the planet and your pocketbook.

So this little nugget, we just couldn’t pass up…

The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) is on a mission to find and recycle the state’s oldest refrigerator. And the proud owner of the dusty energy hog gets $1,000 to wave goodbye.

As part of its N.J. Clean Energy Program, the BPU has partnered with a private company that safely eliminates hazerdous materials from old refrigerators while reclaiming 95 percent of the appliance for re-use in manufacturing new products. They’ll pick up the old units and put them through the terminal wringer. The owner of the oldest one will receive a $1,000 gift card toward a new ENERGY STAR product at any New Jersey Sears store.

Appliance owners wishing to enter their relics in the contest can go to www.NJCleanEnergy.com/refrigerator through Sept. 30 to sign up.

“Many customers don’t realize how much money is wasted by old refrigerators or freezers lurking in garages or basements, but we make it easy for customers to part with the old unit and save money,” said NJBPU President Robert M. Hanna in a press release. “This contest adds a fun side to helping New Jersey residents understand how to save energy and money.”

New Jersey is an active energy telesales market for AGR Group, and switch rates among residential customers continue to climb, so we know our friends in the Garden State care about energy savings. Now, if they’ll just part with the frozen leftovers, they could really cash in.

Energy Telesales Team Adds Account Manager

AGR Group’s reputation as the industry’s premier energy telemarketing organization has been built on sales results, quality customer interactions and satisfied clients. None of which would be possible without our account managers.

The account manager provides the key point of contact between the energy telemarketing client and the call center sales floor. They coordinate and convey campaign targets, scripting changes, and data reporting. Backed by the bottom-line results of the sales team, our account managers build a rapport and trust that is the hallmark of an AGR Group-client partnership.

Marguerite Endres
In Krista Roe and Javier Ponce, we’ve got two of the best in the business. And to support our continued expansion, we’ve added another all-star to our lineup. AGR Group warmly welcomes Marguerite Endres to the account management team.

“We’re very fortunate to add an account manager with Marguerite’s experience,” AGR Group Chief Operating Officer Adolfo Quintero said. “With her varied and accomplished background, we have no doubt that she’ll be able to step in and make an immediate impact.”

Marguerite comes to AGR Group from Cal Poly Pomona, where she was the university’s Coordinator of Alumni Relations and Internships. She was also Coordinator of Graduate Business Programs for the school.

Other work experience includes human resources, operations and accounting. She has a Masters in Business Administration, holds her California real estate license, and has served in the US Army.

A resume like that points to a combination of people skills and business acumen that’s perfect for the world of account management.

“I’m really excited about the opportunity,” Marguerite said. “I look forward to developing my own client relationships, and providing the best-in-class service that AGR Group clients have come to expect.”

Telesales Trade Organization Changes Name

The telemarketing trade association formerly known as the American Teleservices Association (ATA) has instituted a name change to better reflect the impact of emerging technologies on the state of the industry.

The organization is now officially known as the Professional Association for Customer Engagement (PACE). As longstanding members, we wanted to help spread the word.

A press release issued by PACE described the motivation behind the rebranding effort as a recognition of technological advancements like social media and cloud-based services that have changed the way businesses communicate.

“The digital transformation that broadband and other internet technologies have provided has forever changed the way we all interact with our customers”, PACE CEO Phil Grudzinski said in announcing the change, “and with a broader agenda, our association is now uniquely positioned to proactively face the future, multi-channel, challenges of engaging consumers.”

Formed in 1983, the association describes itself as “the only non-profit trade organization dedicated exclusively to the advancement of companies that utilize contact centers as an integral channel of operations.” PACE represents more than 4,000 call centers serving nearly two million professionals across the globe and promotes professional and ethical telephone use in business interactions.

AGR Group has been practicing energy telesales for more than a decade, and we take pride in our professionalism and work ethic. We support those organizations which share and foster those ideals, and we applaud the ongoing efforts of PACE.

“The industry needs to maintain high standards of compliance, while providing the best possible customer experience,” AGR Group Chief Operating Officer Adolfo Quintero said. “We are proud members of PACE and we appreciate all their efforts on our behalf.”

Energy Suppliers Increase Activity In Chicago

Chicago area residents are choosing alternate energy suppliers like never before, according to a report highlighted in Restructuring Today, an industry trade publication.

Competitive offers, customer awareness and switch rates are all headed in the same direction. And AGR Group, a leader in energy telesales, has both hands on an oar in that boat.

“We’ve been selling in the Chicago area for a long time, and it’s been a great market for us,” AGR President Matt Judkin said. “We love to see switch-rate statistics on the rise. It means that customers are finding attractive offers from retail suppliers, and that our sales efforts on their behalf are having a positive impact.”

The report from the Illinois Commerce Commission’s Office of Retail Market Development said that the Chicago area could soon see 70 percent of its total electric load served by competitive suppliers.

Most of that load is comprised of the largest users, the commercial and industrial customers, but the growth of the retail customer segment has exploded recently.

Commonwealth Edison has seen the number of residential shoppers go from 21,000 to over 406,000 in the last year, with monthly increases reaching as high as 50,000. Municipal aggregation – programs that allow large pools of customers to switch to a supplier at one time – have accounted for about 17 percent of that movement. But the majority are considering their own offers from suppliers in a wide open, competitive field.

“It’s great to see energy choice working in these markets,” Judkin said. “AGR Group is proud to play an active role, helping customers find attractive, alternative electric options.”

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