Customer research highlights SME market wants simplicity and pricing transparency when it comes to energy
Published: 8 July 2020 - Rachael Morling
The SME market is facing unprecedented challenges following the period of lockdown the UK is enduring. Businesses will be looking to their costs to see where savings can be secured in the short to medium term and one of the unavoidable overheads that all businesses have, no matter what size, is energy supply.
In a recent survey of its customers, Gazprom Energy found that 89% of its SME customers believe that energy is simply a commodity and the only real differentiators between suppliers are price and reliability. However, if SME customers engaged more proactively with their suppliers then the relationship could prove to be more beneficial to them.
According to Phil Ivers, head of UK operations at Gazprom Energy, SME customers need to take better control of their energy buying. “There are still many SME customers that reach the end of their contract without signing a new one and end up being charged ‘out of contract rates’ without realising it until it’s too late. The solution here is being organised and diarising the contract end date so they can start to look at the market 3-6 months before,” explains Ivers. “Going out of contract is very expensive for a customer but it can be avoided by being organised. Give yourself plenty of time to shop around and find the best deal for your business. If you decide to switch, your account will need to be up to date because any outstanding debt may result in your supplier objecting to the switch which will delay the process.”
The survey also revealed that factors relating to billing are the biggest satisfaction drivers for SME businesses with 42% wanting their service to be hassle free, 18% looking for value for money and 13% specifically looking for efficient, timely and accurate bills. And Ivers believes that suppliers need to do more to help small businesses when it comes to service. “Our survey revealed that 77% of SME customers expect their supplier to provide an exceptional service and this is all about getting the bill right first time and delivered quickly and efficiently each month to avoid any unnecessary hassle and effort. At Gazprom Energy we are committed to obtaining accurate meter readings from all customers sites every month and we are constantly working to increase the number of ‘billed to actual’ invoices we send to customers.”
One of the ways Gazprom Energy is aiming to improve its billed to actual rate is increasing the number of customers with automated meter reading (AMR) devices by the end of 2020. “So far, 76% of all customer sites have AMR devices and while getting this to 100% will be impossible, our team is committed to getting as close to that number as possible,” finishes Ivers.
The results of the survey also demonstrated that Gazprom Energy is solving many of these challenges for its SME customers with overall satisfaction higher this year than in 2019 and 84% of them saying that Gazprom Energy offered them real value for money and 90% stating that the contract signing process was simple backed by simple daily management of energy supply (85%).