Having the right energy supplier in place is an essential ingredient for the successful running of most SME businesses. Yet many business owners spend just a few minutes researching the market for a new supplier. Others, facing the overwhelming number of suppliers available, just stick with their current one. This is perhaps not surprising given how complicated the business energy market can appear. Nevertheless, being lenient on this issue can cause problems further down the line.
According to a 2017 report by Ofgem, the non-ministerial government department in charge of the gas and electricity markets, more than 35% of business energy customers are dissatisfied in the overall service of their supplier but less than a quarter of businesses actually switched supplier in 2016.
Going to market provides a fantastic opportunity to assess whether you can get better value for money. Here,we outline some of the key considerations you should take into account to help you find a supplier and contract that best suits your business. Check it out as it may help you avoid potential headaches.
The first step is to research the market. This can seem like a daunting task with so many options available. You have to read up everything from brokers and energy comparison sites to the Big Six and a myriad of smaller independent suppliers. Each of these options offers different energy products, tariff types or even energy sources. So it can be tempting to simply choose the cheapest or the one that offers an enticing promotion. But there are many other parameters to consider if you dig a little deeper.
Some suppliers don’t work with comparison sites. Other challenger suppliers can offer very low initial costs. Keep in mind though that these rates can sometimes prove unsustainable and result in price increases. If you’re looking for a supplier you can work with for a longer period, you may prefer the stability of an established supplier with a solid track record of supplying businesses like yours.
Before you start contacting potential suppliers, it’s also important to be sure of your current energy usage and any potential changes to your future requirements.
Every business is different, so ensure your supplier understands and is able to meet your specific needs. Can it offer a fixed price product for three or more years to help with longer term budgeting or eco-energy to help you showcase your green credentials to customers? Are you planning to open new sites or dramatically increase your energy usage? Check that your supplier is able to help with any site works projects your growing business may require.
‘Site works’ is a broad term that covers everything from new site connections and disconnections to meter upgrades, installations, removal or replacement and project management for some larger scale work. Site works are most often needed for a new business site but you may simply want to move a meter as a part of building works. Your energy supplier should be able to coordinate this work with the local electricity distributor or gas transporter and let you know of any potential disruptions to service.
To help you navigate these many considerations, we recommend scoring the importance of the following elements from one to ten before you go to market.
Firstly, can they help you find the right product for your business needs? Secondly, can they offer you cleaner or greener electricity and gas? Thirdly, will they offer you advice on how to reduce business outgoings through energy efficiency and do they offer opportunities to meet with them face-to-face at exhibitions for instance?
Moreover, are you certain that they are business energy specialists and that they offer customers regular and helpful communications aside from just prompting you to pay the bills?
And finally, will they service your account in the way you want to be serviced?
So remember, doing your research can seem like a chore but investing some time puts you in the driving seat and gives you more control over this crucial utility for your business.