Energylinx for Business News

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

April 3, 2017

Where does your energy supplier rank?

Depositphotos_12140758_original (1).jpgIn January this year, Citizens Advice launched a league table allowing millions of small business owners to compare how effectively energy suppliers are handling complaints from small businesses across the UK.

The rankings- which will be published quarterly - were updated at the end of March.

For the second time in a row, Extra Energy were at the bottom of the league table. They have an unbelievable 1,231 complaints for every 10,000 customers. The second worse supplier in the ranking is Business Energy Solutions (BES) received 394.1 complaints which is considerably less that Extra Energy.

Last quarter E.On were at the top of the table. This period they were second with an impressive 17.9 complaints for every 10,000 customer. SSE is topped the table with 11.7 complaints per 10,000 customers.

The new league table ranks the performance of the 15 largest firms providing energy to 10,000 or more small non-domestic customers. These business customers are defined as those who have 10 or fewer staff or a turnover of under £1.7 million.

Suppliers' scores are calculated based on the seriousness of the complaint against them and how long it took to resolve. Firms with lower complaints ratios are better at resolving complaints than those with high scores.

The table from Citizens Advice gives business owners and decision makers an independent tool to judge which energy suppliers deal with customer issues well.

Citizens Advice Chief Executive, Gillian Guy, said:

"Small businesses are a linchpin of the UK economy and it's vital they have the support they need to thrive.

"Small business owners depend on the smooth running of essential services - such as gas and electricity - to run and grow their firms. If things go wrong with energy suppliers it can cause delays and financial stress, so its crucial problems are sorted out swiftly and effectively.

"Citizens Advice's complaints league table will give business owners an independent tool to judge which energy suppliers are dealing with customer issues well.

"Energy suppliers should look at how they can drive up customer service standards across the board for their business customers

You could refer to Citizen Advice's table when comparing energy costs with Energylinx for Business and make an informed decision on the best supplier for you. It only takes a couple of minutes to arrange a transfer through our website or you could call one of our advisors on 01259 225400.

Posted on April 3, 2017 at 11:25 AM

March 24, 2017

About Climate Change Agreements

The Climate Change Levy (CCL) is applied to all non-domestic energy bills and effectively taxes businesses on their energy consumption and its associated environmental effects. By participating in a Climate Change Agreement (CCA), businesses in certain sectors may pay a reduced rate of CCL in exchange for meeting tough energy efficiency or carbon abatement targets that were agreed with the Government.

For operators who hold a CCA, the CCL will be reduced by:

  • 90% on electricity bills
  • 65% on other fuels

CCAs are available for a wide range of industry sectors from major energy-intensive processes such as chemicals, paper and supermarkets to agricultural businesses such as intensive pig and poultry farming.

There are two types of CCAs - umbrella agreements and underlying agreements.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change and industry sectors negotiate umbrella agreements. Together they agree the energy efficiency targets for a sector - the sector commitment. The agreement is then held between the sector association and the Environment Agency; the administrator. Umbrella agreements also list the processes that are eligible for a CCA.

An underlying agreement is held by a site, or group of sites, owned by an operator within a particular sector. This contains energy or carbon efficiency targets appropriate for their type of operation.

Sector associations manage the underlying agreements for businesses in their sector. An operator that wants to enter into a CCA must apply first to its sector association.

How CCAs work

The current CCA scheme started in April 2013 and will run until 31 March 2023.

An operator that has a CCA will measure and report its energy use and carbon emissions against agreed targets over four, two-year target periods.

If an operator has more than one eligible facility in the same sector it could hold individual CCAs for each facility, or choose to group them together under one CCA. The target could then be shared across the grouped facilities.

Once a facility, or group of facilities, holds a CCA, it is referred to as a target unit.

If the operator meets its targets at the end of each reporting period, it continues in the scheme and is eligible for the discount on the CCL.

Details of businesses that hold CCAs are published every month as reduced rate certificates for each sector.

Does My Business Qualify?

To find out if you're eligible, click here and visit Appendix A.

Posted on March 24, 2017 at 02:38 PM

March 15, 2017

UK Water Market Deregulation

LifetimeStock-143038-L.jpgFrom April 1st 2017, the water market in England will be deregulated. This means that more than 1.2 million businesses, charities and public sector organisations will be able to choose who they pay for their water and wastewater services. The water market in Scotland is currently deregulated and Wales has decided not to deregulate.

What is deregulation?

It's the privatisation of billing. The retailer gets paid to supply the consumer with water and a bill and then the retailer pays the local wholesaler. There are currently 21 licenced water suppliers in England. 21 suppliers will help create the framework for a healthy, competitive water market, particularly when you compare this to the early days of the open energy market when new entrants were few and far between. We expect to see the number of water suppliers to grow over the coming years as more organisations will be keen to provide additional value solutions on top of what they already offer customers.

Lessons from Scotland

Scotland became the first country in the world to deregulate its water market in 2008. Since opening it up to competition, customers have seen a raft of benefits including savings in water charges, fewer CO2 emissions and water efficiencies, as well as better monitoring and understanding of water use.

Whilst financially businesses might not see a huge instant impact on their bills, by 2020 it is expected that is when the big savings will begin. This is how it worked it Scotland, a few years after the rebalancing of the market and it is anticipated that it will be the same in England.

The water regulator Ofwat is promoting the values of the open market and believes that all customers should have access to impartial and reliable information, enabling them to feel confident about the market and able to make an informed decision about their choice of water retail services provider.

While the water being supplied will still be provided by a local water company and still travel to commercial premises along the same pipes, most of a firm's interactions will now be with done through their retailer. So in the first couple of years, businesses in England should use this new opportunity to find a supplier offering them not only the cheapest deal but the best customer service offering.

Energylinx for Business is excited about the new changes to the water market and the positive impact it will have for businesses throughout England - we look forward to seeing what the future holds!

Posted on March 15, 2017 at 02:50 PM

March 1, 2017

Government Launch Digital Strategy

s300_Digi_Strat_1_govuk.jpgThe Government Digital Strategy was launched today. On the agenda; connectivity, digital skills, and improving businesses with technology.

The publication of the strategy follows the Government Transformation Strategy which was launched last month, in which digital technology was one of its areas of focus.

The Government Digital Strategy consists of seven key areas: connectivity; digital skills and inclusion; making the UK the best place to start and grow a digital business; making all British businesses digital; a safe and secure cyberspace; transforming government to make it more digital; and making the most out of data.

Mike Cherry, National Chairman at the Federation of Small Businesses, said:

"As the Government takes forward its digital plan announced today, it should now focus on the small business community, who will be key to driving digital transformation and productivity.

"The 'digital gap' for small businesses hinders productivity and growth. For the UK to be the best place in the world to do business, we need fit for purpose digital infrastructure and help for small businesses to develop their businesses online. 70% of small businesses report that their mobile phone is critical to their business, so while delivering 5G is important, too many FSB members tell us that basic mobile coverage is lacking. Action is needed to tackle these 'not-spots' and to achieve the Government's promised broadband Universal Service Obligation for all businesses across the country. FSB will play its part, as part of a business-led 'Do It Digital' campaign to get more small businesses confident when operating online, and we will shortly roll out basic cyber insurance for all our members.

"The commitment within the Digital Strategy to boost digital skills and confidence to go online is vital, with two in five small businesses believing digital skills are crucial to their future growth. Tackling the skills gap across all of those in the workforce needs to begin early, and we welcome the pledge to teach new skills such as coding, to more young people. This however cannot be a one-off; free basic digital skills training throughout everyone's working lives will be just as important for UK business to remain competitive in the global economy."

Posted on March 1, 2017 at 04:33 PM

February 20, 2017

Centrica to invest £100m in tech start-ups

centrica.pngThe owner of British Gas, Centrica, plans to invest £100m in technology start-ups over five years. The aim is to help households lower their energy costs and convince the government that it is taking action to benefit customers.

Centrica said the new venture, dubbed 'Centrica Innovations', will strengthen its ability to recognize and finance in technologies and ideas that can deliver new products, offers and services for customers.

It will place scouts in key technology hubs around the worlds; Cambridge, Houston, London Seattle and Tell Aviv. It was also further support existing in-house ventures such as lo-Tahoe, a software and Services Company that helps unlock insights from British Gas' 14 million energy customer accounts.

It will also act as an "incubator" for external ventures which are not yet at maturity level for investment and require different types of support, like business expertise, mentoring or product piloting.

Iain Conn, Centrica's Group Chief Executive said:

"The launch of Centrica Innovations is an important step in identifying and responding to the changing needs of our customers. The new venture will ensure innovation is embedded across our business and will allow us to invest in the technologies that can support our customers into the future.

"As the government launches an Industrial Strategy with technology and R&D at its heart, Centrica is focused on delivering a smarter energy future for the UK."

The company previously launched the 'Hive' thermostat that allows customers to control their heating via an app.

Posted on February 20, 2017 at 04:40 PM

February 16, 2017

Networking: Pros and Cons

NetworkingIt can be very difficult for small business owners, especially those who start up on their own to get a steady stream of new business. Websites help and do generate new leads, as does social media. Another way of getting referrals is through networking and joining networking groups.

For many people, networking evokes uncomfortable memories of walking into a room with a sea of unfamiliar faces. It is often seen as its own distinct activity, where business cards are exchanged and hands are shaken. In reality, it's something we all do, every day, with our friends, colleagues, clients and acquaintances. At its most basic level, networking is about forming and maintaining relationships but that being said, it isn't for every business.

At Energylinx for Business we thought it would be useful to do a pros and cons list for our customers to help them weigh up whether networking is right for them and their business:

Why it works:

  • People do business with people they know and like and networking groups are one of the best ways to get to know new people. Whilst there is no guarantee of ever getting anything, getting involved and speaking to people increases your chances increase dramatically.
  • They get you out of the house/office/comfort zone. Sometimes a break from the office and the same faces does you good. Bounce ideas off other people, listen to new opinions. Sometimes you just need a different person's perspective on things and a sounding board for your ideas.
  • Personal development. Networking groups are a great place to learn new stuff. Whether it's the intricacies of the new tax laws or how to use social media to your advantage, these groups offer enormous value for money.
  • You can become the expert. When you join a networking group and you have a particular area of expertise you can quickly become the expert in the group for the subject and use that as a springboard for other talking or teaching engagements.
  • Making new friends. Not everything is about business and if you never do business with a particular person you meet through a group, but you end up socialising with them then in the scheme of things that's probably going to end up being much better for your health and well-being.

Why, sometimes, it doesn't:

  • It can be time-consuming. It's entirely possible to spend all your time networking and not getting anything else done. We don't recommend this! It's very important to prioritise the essential events from those that will drain your resources.
  • There are little to no instant results. The relationships forged in these networking group's takes time to become cemented. Flitting in and out groups without devoting both time and effort to them will result in disappointment.
  • They can be expensive. Membership fees to local bodies such as the Chamber of Commerce, can be a major expense for a small business starting out - especially if networking isn't for you. There are some free networking mornings or business weeks, there are usually run by your local council. As a business, you have to measure which ones work and which don't and consolidate as necessary - just remember (when it comes to networking) not everything you get back can be measured directly in cash terms or ROI.
  • Personality conflicts. When you join any group, team or organisation, there is inevitably going to be some butting of heads. Very strong willed people are drawn to these groups. Type A personalities who want to get their message across at all costs. Don't be intimidated, don't take things personally and don't dwell on anything.

You can try networking, but don't be disheartened if you find that it isn't right for you and your business - you aren't alone! There are other things you can try, like mastermind dinners, wine tastin, events and un-networking lunches! Figure out what is right for your business and work that. Good luck!

Posted on February 16, 2017 at 10:48 AM