According to recent research, the 2013/14 winter will see the strongest growth for small and medium businesses (SME’s) since the financial crisis began. However, I’m mindful that for many businesses, the first quarter of 2014 is a particularly precarious time as revenues are often lower than at any other time.
During this period, we want to support our business customers the best we can because we believe SME’s are the life-blood of the UK economy, and their success, is critical to its continued recovery.
As a leading energy supplier to SME’s, British Gas Business (BGB) is well placed to create an environment where they can grow and be successful. And that’s why there are a number of things we’re doing to support them, from making the sale of energy simple and transparent to putting them in control of their energy use and payments.
Here are some of our activities that support our business customers:
- Proactive engagement – Our British Gas Engagement Panel is an online forum of around 350 business customers which discusses key issues like billing and cost control. Interacting with these customers helps us improve the service we provide.
- Improving customer experience– We are investing more than £30m in our systems and processes to improve customer service.
- Increasing the accuracy of bills – By installing over 300,000 smart meters in UK businesses over the last few years, we are improving the accuracy of bills enabling them to manage their cash flow more effectively.
- Making energy simple –We’ve produced an online information portal, Energy Made Simple, to help businesses understand their energy use. The portal provides customers with a wide-range of information to support them, including what makes up their energy bill as well as energy saving tips.
- Fair billing– In response to an increasing number of our business customers telling us they didn’t like the way the energy industry automatically moved them onto new contracts when their old one ended, British Gas led the industry by announcing the end to auto-rollover business contracts. This means they can now choose the best deal for them when their contract expires and if they don’t tell us which tariff they want to be moved on to, we’ll put them on a variable tariff they can switch from once they’ve made up their mind. We also have a Fair Billing Charter, that ensures customers won’t be hit hard by unexpected or large ‘back-bills’ (note 1) caused through supplier or industry errors.
- Reducing debt– Our BGB Small Business Advice Expertise Service has helped over 8,000 customers continue to power and heat their businesses while reducing their debt by almost £8m. This has been achieved through providing energy saving advice and financial support such as payment plans to spread the cost and lessen the financial impact on businesses. This service is supported by our Time to Pay initiative, which provides businesses with expert advice and support on how to avoid or get out of energy debt. We also partner with debt experts like Business Debtline to give our customers access to free and independent advice.
- Energy efficiency- As well as supplying gas and electricity, we’re also helping customers use energy more efficiently. This is a fast growing business area for us and we already have a large nationwide capability helping customers from industries as diverse as health care, transport and telecoms consume less energy. We’re working together to for example, ensure businesses have the right tools and services to monitor their energy use or raising awareness about insulation to help keep costs down.
I believe these actions today can help the businesses of tomorrow achieve success. In turn, this will help us earn the trust and loyalty of our customers while ensuring they can afford to pay their energy bills; both of which contributes to the long-term sustainability of our business.
We remain committed to helping our business customers and if you’re in need of our assistance, do please get in touch.
1 A ‘back bill’ occurs when a customer has been undercharged so a bill is created to cover the amount owed.