Energylinx for Business News

July 18, 2017

Price Competitiveness is the most important issue when picking a new energy supplier say UK SMEs

New research carried out by Gazprom Energy has discovered that businesses are starting to look beyond the price tag when searching for a new energy supplier, but price competitiveness and transparency remain the most important issues when choosing a new energy company to supply them.

Surveying 200 businesses throughout the UK, Gazprom Energy found that SMEs are becoming more concerned with the whole package that an energy supplier offers. 64% believe it's important that the supplier shows a good understanding of the business and its need to win the deal - highlighting the growing importance of the level of customer service an energy supplier can provide.

A massive 95% of those surveyed stated that price competitiveness was influential when choosing a new supplier and 81% claimed that advice from a third party could also strongly influence their decision.

Energy suppliers also need to be more innovative in terms of how they deliver their service and allow customers to take more control. Access to better technology to understand and control usage has gained increased interest from UK businesses with 70% saying they would use an online portal to engage with their energy provider to manage their contracts more independently and 43% would like a live chat service for a straight-forward way to contact their supplier.

Businesses have become more inclined to shop around to get the best deal for their energy, instead of taking the obvious or easy option with 61% of those surveyed happy to use separate suppliers for each fuel if it meant securing a better deal. Only 20% insisted on the same supplier for everything.

Energylinx for Business can provide companies with a straight-forward, online energy comparison and switching service. In less than 2 minutes you can run a quote that will give you the price plans of over 30 energy suppliers. If you would like to discuss the price plans or different suppliers, we have a team of energy advisors that can help you talk you through the comparison process - just call 01259 225400.

Posted on July 18, 2017 at 08:51 AM

July 6, 2017

How to Protect your Small Business from Cyber-crime

The latest global cyber-attack that affected businesses around the world is a stark reminder of the growing risks from cyber-crime that companies face, and unfortunately, small businesses can be particularly vulnerable to this type of crime. The ransomware is currently being discussed as a variant of 'Petya', which has similar traits to 'WannaCry' that caused havoc with the NHS network in May.

So how should small companies protect themselves? The first stop should be the National Cyber Security Centre website and Twitter feed to ensure you stay up to date with the latest advice. The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) offers its members a cyber advice line and cyber insurance protection, which could prove invaluable in the event of an attack.

FSB recently advised members of other free and simple steps that they can take to reduce their risk of contracting all types of malware including ransomware, of which WannaCry and Petya are just two:

  1. Ensure software and devices are kept up to date and all available security patches are installed. Upgrade devices to their latest operating system version where possible.
  2. Have a robust and regular backup solution which allows recovery from a malware outbreak. Having an offsite or cloud backup is also invaluable in the event of a natural disaster or accident such as a flood or fire.
  3. Raise awareness of cyber security risks and promote vigilance within the company. Employees are often the last line of defence against attacks that have bypassed technological barriers and a simple action such as not opening an email attachment may prevent a huge impact to the business.

Beyond ransomware and other types of malware - such as viruses, spyware, Trojans, and worms - small businesses are susceptible to other types of cyber-crime - one of the fastest growing areas of crime globally. These include phishing and spear phishing emails, whaling, and CNP (card not present) fraud.

'Invoice fraud' phishing attacks are becoming all too common in the small business sector. This is where a business email account is illegitimately accessed and used to send, or modify, customer invoices with altered payment details. Such crimes often cause thousands of pounds of lost revenue and have a high success rate.

A cyber-crime incident costs a small business victim nearly £3,000, and takes more than two days to recover from. According to a recent report FSB published, a staggering seven million cyber-crimes are committed against smaller businesses in the UK every year.

Don't take risks and make sure staff are also savvy when it comes to threats. Small businesses should always ensure they're following the best expert advice and have specialist cyber insurance in place.

Posted on July 6, 2017 at 02:33 PM

June 27, 2017

New processes to support micro-businesses in the struggle with energy overpricing

New measures to stop microbusinesses being locked into expensive rollover contracts were put in place today.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) concluded a two-year long investigation in June 2016. They found that around 45% of micro-businesses across Britain were on their energy supplier's costly default tariffs.

One of the CMA's recommendations was that suppliers have to stop locking small companies into automatic rollover contracts and that they have to make it easier for them to compare the cheapest energy prices. They have to do this by ensuring information is clearly available on the supplier's website, or via a link to a price comparison website.

Energy firms are now required to comply with the CMA's recommendation and had until yesterday to make to get the information live on their websites.

Dermot Nolan, Ofgem Chief Executive said:

"This is a big change in the way the market works.

We'll be working closely with suppliers to make sure they give micro-businesses clear information on the prices they offer in line with the regulation. We are considering what further steps could be taken to protect and help these business customers engage in the market as part of our wider programme to make sure all consumers - business and domestic - get a better deal."

The CMA expects the remedies to help micro-businesses save up to £180 million a year.

Smaller firms will also be able to leave more expensive auto-rollover default tariffs without having to pay exit fees.

As advocates for transparency and fair pricing, Energylinx for Business welcome these changes. You can find the best supplier for your business online or by calling one of our advisors on 01259 225400.

Posted on June 27, 2017 at 03:15 PM

June 26, 2017

Brexit: What Small Companies Want

According to new research from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), over half of small businesses with EU workers are worried about accessing people with the right skills (59%) or growing their business (54%) post-Brexit.

FSB's latest report, 'A skilful exit: What small firms want from Brexit', shows one-fifth (21%) of small employers currently have EU staff. Nearly three quarters (72%) of these small firms recruited all of their EU workers when they were already living in the UK. And the vast majority of small firms (95%) have no experience using the UK's points-based immigration system to recruit non-EU workers.

The research highlights the need for small firms to have continued access to labour and skills from the EU post-Brexit. It finds that small businesses with EU workers mainly employ mid-skilled staff (47%), such as care and construction workers, mechanics and office managers. If Brexit creates additional barriers to recruiting EU citizens, small firms that employ EU workers would consider moving their business abroad (13%), reducing operations (13%), or even closing down (8%).

FSB had called on the Government to guarantee, as soon as possible, the right to remain for EU citizens in the workforce. Last week Theresa May announced that, subject to further negotiation, EU nationals resident in the UK for more than five years will be offered residency. However, the Prime Minister said that this offer is dependent on EU states guaranteeing UK residents the same rights after Brexit. Some European ministers have criticised the UK's offer, claiming that it doesn't go far enough. So one year after the vote to leave the EU, it is still unclear how EU nationals will be affected by Brexit.

Mike Cherry, FSB National Chairman, said:

"There is real concern among small firms with EU staff that they will lose access to the skills and labour their business needs to survive and grow. EU workers are a vital part of our economy, helping to plug chronic skills gaps across a wide range of sectors, and filling jobs in an already tight labour market. From packers, to mechanics, to graphic designers, small employers need to be able to hire the right person, for the right job at the right time.

"Securing the right to remain for EU workers in the UK must be a priority. It's also crucial small firms are given time after the UK leaves the EU to prepare for the new immigration arrangements. There can't be a sudden cliff edge preventing small firms from accessing the workers they need. This means having sensible transitional arrangements first, followed by the phased implementation of a new immigration system."

Over half (56%) of small businesses with EU employees are concerned about being required to enforce new immigration rules post-Brexit. As the Government defines its new approach to immigration, it is crucial that small firms aren't left battling layers of red tape to recruit the workers they need.

It's also important those small firms who carry out cross-border business with the EU (30%) are not disrupted by Brexit, and that any future immigration arrangement allows for small businesses to carry out assignments and projects in the EU.

Special consideration needs to be given to businesses in Northern Ireland, the only part of the UK which has a land border with another EU member state. Tens of thousands of people commute over this border on a daily basis, and any restrictions would have a direct impact on small firms' ability to recruit and retain the workers they need.

Mike Cherry continued:

"Restrictions on immigration will be felt more acutely by small businesses. Most small firms don't have HR departments to deal with complex immigration procedures or the time and resources to deal with swathes of additional paperwork or extra costs. They are least well-placed to cope with losing staff or dealing with a burdensome application process from the government to retain and hire new staff. So it is vital that the Home Office engages with small businesses as early as possible on the design of a new immigration system to ensure affordability and ease of use. Otherwise, as our research shows, the consequences for small business growth and survival could be severe.

"Brexit negotiations must also take into account those small firms who have important business relationships with the EU. Brexit will not work for small business if there are delays or difficulties in doing business across the EU border."

Posted on June 26, 2017 at 08:59 AM

May 26, 2017

Energylinx for Business Partners with Water Plus

We've partnered with Water Plus to give our customers more money saving opportunities.

Water Plus is a fresh name in the business water market and is the product of two heavyweight companies that have been in the water market for years, United Utilities and Severn Trent.

Water Plus offers a new approach to providing water to businesses. With over 400,000 business customers and a team of highly-experienced water professionals, Water Plus have the knowledge that will make buying water easy for your business.

Choosing Water Plus to partner with was an easy decision for us. They've made the process of switching water supplier easy with a dedicated team taking care of everything for you.

  1. Contact - Just call or submit a few details online.
  2. Quote - They will tell you how much you'll save.
  3. Save - They take care of the switch for you.

The water market has been deregulated in Scotland since 2008 and opened up to businesses in England April 2017. This has provided millions of businesses the opportunity to save money on their water bills in the same as they can with their energy bills.

To see if you can save money with on your businesses water bills click here.

To see if we can save you money on your energy bills visit our home page.

Posted on May 26, 2017 at 10:06 AM

May 23, 2017

Energy Companies Invest Billions into UK SMEs

Over the last four years, more than £5 billion has been invested in deals between large energy companies and British small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs). A report named Close Encounters: The Power of Collaborative Innovation by law firm Bond Dickinson, found that there were 179 deals between April 2013 and April 2017, worth a total of £5.4 billion.

Paul Stockley, Bond Dickinson's head of energy, said the figures highlighted the growing importance of SME's in the energy field and their ability to innovate.

"SMEs are faster moving, much more so than the bigger energy firms. If you think about super-majors like Shell or some of the bigger utilities, they have a history in the way they have grown, and they are unable to innovate or move as fast."

According to the study, 56% included minority stakes and 4% were mergers and acquisitions.

Around a third (32%) of the deals were between two energy companies, while 6% were between an energy company and a manufacturing SME.

Stockley said some parts of the energy sector, such as the oil and gas industry are renowned for "being quite traditional", while there is a "lot more innovation coming through" with renewables SMEs.

Stockley told Utility Week:

"From the oil and gas side of things, the oil price crash has meant that firms need to be looking at greater innovation and collaboration to drive down costs."

"Then of course, in the wider scheme of things, what we have right now in the North Sea is the government's drive for maximum economic recovery, which has started to break down barriers between companies and try and encourage everyone to collaborate for the greater good of the North Sea.

"You get people who have said the North Sea is gone, but the government won't let that happen because it's too important a prize in terms of energy security and the economy. So, the government is right behind making a success of the North Sea. From the oil and gas perspective, the future is challenging but promising, and SMEs will definitely play a part in that.

"And the UK has had a burgeoning renewables industry for some time. Onshore, the subsidies have been cut, but offshore wind is still big business and will remain so. Clearly, technology and innovation play a big part in that sector."

Posted on May 23, 2017 at 09:48 AM

May 18, 2017

Project Nexus Update

Energy regulator, Ofgem, has sponsored an initiative called Project Nexus. The aim of Project Nexus is to replace the UK Link System which is operated by XOSERVE and provides a number of functions for the gas industry.

Nexus is due to go live on 1st June 2017. As a result of this go live, there will be a period of transition that may increase customer switch times for gas. It's really unusual for an upgrade of this size to take place but once the new system is live, it will provide a host of new benefits.

Here are just some of the benefits we can expect after Project Nexus is completed:

  • Faster switching.
  • Better reporting of gas consumption.
  • Improved support for the smart meter rollout.
  • An introduction of new settlement classes.

Does this Affect Me?

Rest assured, you won't experience any impact on your gas supply during the upgrade.

If you arrange to transfer your gas supplier during this period then you will likely experience delays in the process. Electricity only switches will not be impacted by the upgrade, as it only effects the gas network. The welcome pack you receive from your new supplier will provide further details of your official go-live date.

It is expected that there will be minimal impact on customers during the transition period. However, if you are considering switching your energy supplier and your current business energy tariff is about to end, there may be a crossover period where you are paying deemed rates with your current supplier before going live with your new supplier. Check with your current supplier what they will be charging you for your current price plan ending until your switch has taken place.

The below provides guidelines for the increased timescales for switching:

  • Switches between 9th - 15th May will take approximately six weeks.
  • Switches between 16th - 25th May will take approximately five weeks.
  • Switches between 26th - 31th May will take approximately four weeks.

If you are unsure or have any questions, our business energy advisors will be able to provide you with more information, call 01259 225400. You can also arrange your energy transfer online.

Posted on May 18, 2017 at 11:22 AM

May 11, 2017

Facebook has launched a UK SME Council to help businesses connect and collaborate

EfB Meeting.jpgSocial media giant Facebook has set up a SME Council to help small ventures from various industries share feedback and discuss ideas around leveraging technology to grow their enterprise. Facebook has brought together 15 fast-growth British businesses to help form the UK SME council.

The SME Council isn't a new concept but it is the first time that there has been one in the UK. The initiative launched in America before moving to India and was set up to better understand what people need to make their business thrive.

The UK SME Council will meet bi-annually to discuss progress on solutions and new challenges faced by the 70 million businesses from around the world that use Facebook to connect with consumers and find new customers.

Facebook announced in April that five million business use the network for advertising so it's not a surprise that they want to capitalise on the businesses leveraging its service.

Indeed, the UK SME Council launch comes following Facebook's research with the OECD and World Bank, which revealed that 52% of British companies learn from each other and feel more confident on the back of those lessons.

The research found that 53% of those that collaborate with the business community are confident of the company outlook for the next six months. Additionally, 54% embrace international trade and 48% expect to create jobs in the next six months.

Ciaran Quilty, SME director at Facebook says, 'There is no better way to understand the challenges that small businesses face, and the opportunities that exist to help them grow, than by talking to them directly.

'This council will not only give Facebook first-hand knowledge to improve our products and services on behalf of these important business owners, but also provide a forum for them to learn from other fast-growing, digitally innovative companies in the UK.'

Posted on May 11, 2017 at 12:53 PM

April 27, 2017

Dealing with a PR Crisis: Tips for Small Businesses

PR Crisis This week The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), in partnership with Abbey Protection Group (Abbey), launched a new crisis PR management service for the UK's 5.4 million small businesses.

Loss of reputation is now one of the biggest risks that face businesses in the UK. The dominance of social media and online reviews means damage can spread quickly. We've all seen in the last few weeks that big businesses can also be caught out. United Airlines is (quite rightly) having a PR nightmare after videos of a passenger being dragged from a plane went viral within hours and their PR award winning CEO issued a less than acceptable statement.

As almost no small business has access to professional in-house PR advice, and very few have access to an external PR agency, FSB will be offering PR/Crisis Management advice and help to its members. In case you aren't a member we've put together some tips on how to deal with a PR crisis.

PREPARATION

Have a Crisis Plan in Place This could be a whole different blog post but it's worth stating here. Hopefully your business will never face a crisis but just in case, you should have a plan to help guide you at the time. Brainstorm potential issues that might arise, considering political/regulatory, economic and social trends. Allocate job roles and define them if anything was to arise. This saves time and gets a response out faster if it does happen.

The headings for the plan should be: potential crises (think of all possible scenarios); audiences (staff, customers, stakeholders, media); how you communicate (social media, staff briefings, letters); what you say (you can prepare a holding statement and key messages in advance); who does what (who is media spokesperson, who takes responsibility for social media or talking to clients?); how you do it (where and when do you have a press briefing) and, of course, who has authority to activate the plan. Don't make it war and peace, do keep it simple and to the point.

The most important bit is the appendix, listing everyone's contact details, social media accounts, website links, etc. Make sure the plan is a practical document.

RULES FOR AN EFFECTIVE RESPONSE

Acknowledge the crisis: When a crisis occurs, people's initial sense of shock often turns to anger if the company at the centre of the crisis is not seen to take the appropriate action or say the right words. Issue a holding statement at the very least outlining what you intend to do. This will dispel any of the anger the could be thrown at your business.

Statement: Written and spoken statements must always cover the following topics in the following order: people, environment, property and money. This is the order in which most newspapers and broadcast media will cover the story.

Don't blame the media for your problems: They can really help you out. Initially the media is often neutral or sympathetic. Only really becoming hostile of they believe the organisation in the midst of the crisis is too slow in giving information. Your PR activity in crises must never attempt to hide the facts of what has happened. Establish your organisation as the single authoritative source of what has happened and what is being done about it.

Monitor the Media: Monitoring what the media is reporting on the crisis is a crucial part of the response. Also, you should monitor what is being said on social network by customers and potential customers.

CEO to Take Personal Charge: Crucial to the crisis response is for the CEO to be seen to take personal charge of the aftermath and to be the principal communicator. While public relations advocates telling it all, telling it fast and telling it truthfully, lawyers will often promote saying nothing, doing nothing and admitting nothing. We saw this United Airlines, and we all witnessed the backlash. Whilst the lawyers are providing sound legal advice, they don't appreciate the long-term consequences for an organisations reputation. Get to the CEO before the lawyer does; it often makes it easier to persuade him or her to take a more open course of action

Don't give in to speculations: Don't admit liability for what has happened and never speculate on the cause of the crisis. Reporters will push hard for possible causes - from a legal standpoint, don't give them any speculative stories.

THE AFTERMATH

Improve Organic Search and SEO

The crisis has passed and your business appears to be out of the media spotlight. Now news doesn't just disappear. You may not be on your local newspaper's homepage any more but when prospective employees, customers and investors Google your company's name, it will be on the first page of the search results.
One of the most efficient ways to rectify this is to create engaging content. This might be infographics, research or reactive industry comment pieces from a company spokesperson. Share these insights with the media and targeted influencers, and encourage them to cover it.

This will push old news - otherwise known as your crisis - down Google search results and improve your search engine optimisation (SEO). It's low cost and has the added benefit of boosting your brand awareness and website traffic.

Evaluate

When it is all over, conduct research to evaluate the actual versus intended results of the response. Review the organisation from top to bottom in the light of lessons learnt - unfortunately lightning can strike twice!

Posted on April 27, 2017 at 10:20 AM

April 13, 2017

Switching Numbers down for UK SMEs

LifetimeStock-257970-L (2).jpgLast year the Competition and Markets Authority ended its investigation into the energy market and despite the increased press attention, less UK SMEs switched their energy supplier in 2016 (21%) than in 2015 (25%). Even though more than a quarter of businesses are currently paying far too much on their energy bills.

This is one of the key findings in Ofgem's third annual survey on how small businesses engage with the energy market. The research was conducted by Quadrangle and surveyed 1,254 small businesses with less than 49 members of staff.

The aim of the research was to establish what barriers SMEs face in engaging with the energy industry and to provide baseline measures in advance of CMA market reforms coming into force on the 24th of June 2017.

The most frequently cited reason for businesses switching their energy supplier remained the appeal of lower prices. In 2016, a clear majority of businesses (85%) reported switching because they were offered or found a better deal with another supplier. In addition around half of the businesses (52%) stated that they switched supplier because of price increases from their previous supplier. This suggests that financial factors prompt businesses switch. In addition to financial reasons, around three-quarters (73%) stated that knowing their energy contract was coming to an end prompted them to switch their supplier.

Another of the significant findings of the survey was that more than half of businesses surveyed (53%) couldn't switch their supplier because they were tied into their current contract and as much as 32% reported that they stay with their supplier to avoid exits fees. The shocking discovery for Energylinx for Business was that 27% of businesses believe it is too complex or time-consuming to switch energy supplier. When we launched in 2012, our aim was to create a simple, straight forward process that allowed business to switch their supplier quickly - letting them spend more time on important things. It's so easy to arrange a transfer using our online platform. If you get need any help, our friendly advisors are on the other end of the phone. Just call 01259 225400.

Posted on April 13, 2017 at 08:29 AM