Current utility marketing efforts focus almost entirely on large customers or "key" accounts, responding reactively to competitive threats such as self-generation, municipalization, and even geographic relocation. These threats have become all too real for many utilities. Niagara Mohawk Power Corp. has lost 15 percent of its large industrial load in the last 15 years. The recently negotiated long-term power contracts between Detroit Edison and the Big Three automakers are a conscious response to the looming threat of retail wheeling. Anticipated competition for key accounts under retail wheeling is prompting many utilities to begin developing proactive key-account marketing plans that include incentive rates, technology assistance, and a good dose of TLC.By contrast, utility mass accounts (em that is, residential and commercial customers (em are not currently at risk from competitive factors. Thus, strategic marketing for mass accounts is typically placed on a back burner, to be addressed later when details on the industry transition to competitive markets become more clear. The not uncommon view that retail wheeling will slowly extend beyond a limited number of large customers, perhaps never to reach individual retail customers, makes this wait-and-see attitude seem prudent in the current cost-cutting atmosphere.
This is dangerous thinking for several reasons.
Key Accounts are Fleeting