Getting the best deal from your retail energy provider is about having the right information. Small business owners have one eye on the bottom line at all times. Because energy costs are one of the bigger expenses, you should ask your retail energy provider some questions to help you make the best decision for your business.
Some questions you should consider:
1. How good is your track record with small businesses?
Asking to see the names of other businesses your size that have used the service is a good idea — assuming the information isn’t confidential. See if your potential provider has a list of customers who have agreed to speak about their experiences with the company or have published any testimonials on their website. It’s nice to find out what other small businesses think of the services you are considering.
2. How does your pricing structure work?
Finding out the kilowatt per hour charges can help you to make the right decision for your small business. However, there are a few other factors to consider like any spikes in pricing for different times of the day.
3. How do your payments work?
Remember, energy providers know they offer a valuable service and are part of the communities they serve. To that end, they may offer recurring payments, fixed rates and online options.
4. What innovations do you use to control costs?
The cloud and other IT technologies allow energy providers to give their customers real-time updates in many circumstances. Find out what, if any, technologies your provider has in place to help save you on energy costs and provide more efficient service.
5. How do your prices and services compare with competitors?
Ask your potential provider how they compare on costs and services with their competitors. Then double check with those competitors and make sure you are getting the best deal you can.
6. How long is the contract?
Getting all the information up front will help your small business make the right decision. There are many different factors involved including the length of the contract. Keep in mind, longer-term contracts may offer better rates.
7. Are there any minimum usage provisions?
There are some companies that require you to buy a certain amount of energy every year. It’s important to gauge your needs to the amount you finally purchase. It’s also a good idea to find out if installing any of the latest technologies like solar panels is the best way to get the most from your energy dollar before you sign a contract with a certain provider.
8. Will there be more charges if I use more energy?
Learning how you’ll pay for increased usage over any prearranged amounts you buy is critical. That can eat into the profits your business earns from expansion. Make sure you understand what’s expected of your small business before you sign.
8. What does it cost to switch?
There are many good deals to be had in a competitive market and close scrutiny of any offers will likely help your business. Understanding all the aspects, including if there’s a charge for early termination of service, should be considered before you make any final decisions.
Taking the time to do a little research to make sure you know what questions to ask any potential retail energy provider may help you control your energy costs in the long run. Having the right information so that you can get the best products and services is an important metric.
This is one area where small businesses can’t afford to skimp on their homework. It’s your responsibility as a small business owner to look around and find the plan best suited to your business model and budget.
10. What protection do you have against cyber criminals
Although that might not sound like a relevant question at first, it’s actually very important. Making sure that you get the best plan for your business isn’t just about how much a provider may charge. It’s important to find out what your provider has to protect your account information against fraud and other potentially costly hacks.
For more on what a trusted energy company can provide for small businesses, visit Constellation.
Negotiating Photo via Shutterstock
These are really good questions. But most of us just get this over with without really talking with the energy provider.