In the event that a business owner is thinking of switching providers, one of the first things they are likely to do is key in their details into one of these online tools and pick the cheapest option. However, there have been concerns raised about such sites, and some listings are reportedly false or exaggerated – for example, a basic price is listed without mentioning other charges incurred for the service to boost its ranking in the listing. In fact, only last September, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) launched an investigation to address what consumers expect from digital comparison tools, their experiences and how it effects competition within the market. Andrea Coscelli, CMA acting chief executive, said: “Since emerging a decade or so ago, such tools have helped to inject significant competition into a number of markets, including private motor insurance. They have made it easier for consumers to engage in many markets. However, they have been more successful in some sectors than others. We want to understand why this is the case and whether more can be done to ensure consumers and businesses can benefit from them more widely. “Some people have also raised concerns about certain issues, including whether consumers can trust the information that’s available, and the study will look at these issues too.” Furthermore, some providers are not listed on price comparison sites, so the only way to be sure of getting the best value for money deal for your business is to shop around. The SME approach Taking time out of your hectic schedule to shop around when choosing a supplier might be easier said than done for many business owners. With that in mind, here are a few simple pointers to guide your decision making process.
- Products: Are you being offered a choice of business energy products that are easy to understand and have clearly stated benefits? If you’re not 100 per cent sure of your decision making criteria, understanding the products available may help you to establish your business energy product requirements as well as understand the value for money each product will give you
- Customer service: Of the businesses that experienced a problem with the energy supply, 20 per cent claimed a supplier failed to provide the promised service and 18 per cent cited poor customer service. Speak to other business owners, find out what they have to say about their provider, or check out some review sites. You can even check the supplier’s website to read up on the customer service procedure, and make sure that if you ever had a complaint you’d know how to reach someone as soon as possible
- Green credentials: Do you pride yourself on your dedication to the environment? Look to see whether your energy supplier offers a green service that can help position your business as one of the good guys
- Advice and expertise: If you’re looking for a provider, it’s perfectly understandable for a small business owner not to be a gas expert or a broadband expert and so on. But when it comes to making these decisions, you need to be as informed as possible. You need to be able to rely on the professionals – does your supplier have a team of experts or an advice page?
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