As the UK comes out of recession SME customers in particular are looking at a number of different aspects of energy provision that exclude price…
Nick Blashill, director at Green Energy, says: “Rather than a service model, most businesses have a quality of service model and the two are very different. We at Green Energy don’t sell the cheapest energy, as we don’t want to partake in a race to the bottom, while still providing what is required for customers.”
This is further validated by research conducted by Make it Cheaper, which found that just 13 per cent of business customers are looking at the lowest price when it comes to finding an energy deal. Meanwhile, more than half are looking for a combination of the cheapest price and a vetted supplier that would be recommended by brokers or comparison sites as having a decent level of customer service.
While price may play a crucial role in the decision-making process, it is ultimately the customer service provision that will make or break a business. Before deciding where to place your custom always consider this aspect of your supplier’s business. For instance, are the tariffs going to be right? If errors are made how are these fixed? How quickly can any queries be resolved and so on?
For many smaller suppliers, the level of service provided is a contributing factor that ensures they remain competitive with their larger rivals; they will offer energy advice to make sure that where customers are using excess energy, they are given assistance in how to cut down their bills.
These are all important issues. Most SME businesses will face a utilities dilemma at some point while with with an energy company and how these are dealt with and how quickly they are resolved can have a significant impact on the day-to-day running of the business.
The best way to ensure good customer service is to speak to current customers and – if they go through a broker – try and find out whether the broker receives funding from the energy company.
It’s also vital that SMEs read the terms and conditions before signing a contract and that they make sure the contract they ultimately get is in line with Ofgem regulations.
According to Blashill, SME customers are “taking a long hard look at everything, which means they are willing to spend a little more on their energy as long as they get a top level service that solves problems quickly and efficiently, ensuring the company doesn’t spend too long out of business when things go wrong.”
One of the great things about modern technology is that most energy websites will have comment sections or forums attached, so there is nowhere to hide from bad customer service.
Another key way to identify customer service levels is to examine the data surrounding how quickly a company responds to any potential issues that may arise. Many companies will already have this data to hand and – if not already published – they will be amenable to providing this information to their potential business customers.
At some smaller companies such as Green Energy there is sometimes the option for customers to invest in the company, meaning they have a much stronger hold over business practice. This means that if companies are unhappy with the level of service that is being provided they have the opportunity to change this, not only by phone and customer helpline procedures, but also by raising potential issues as a problem at shareholder meetings to which they are invited.
In the next instalment of our energy series, we take a look at the use of third-party brokers…