Six ways utility bill management could benefit your business
The pandemic has driven many organisations to take a fresh look at their premises and the associated costs. Over a third of companies are planning to downsize office space according to a recent survey, and 63% of employers are maintaining the use of hybrid working, with employees splitting time between work and home.
Whatever the degree of your workplace transformation, it’s likely that your energy use has changed with it. Lighting, heating and appliances may be on or on standby when not needed; or in some cases organisations are being incorrectly billed for a supply they no longer use.
Utility bill management is not a new concept, but if you’ve dismissed the idea before, it’s a timely opportunity to reconsider. UK businesses spend around £24 billion a year on energy, and in many sectors it accounts for more than 10% of total expenditure. A post-lockdown review of your utility spend and use could yield some surprising, and welcome savings.
Below is a quick recap of how utility bill management works, and how it can benefit your business.
What is utility bill management?
Utility bills are notoriously complicated to understand fully, so it can be difficult to identify billing errors or spot unusual patterns of consumption that might need to be investigated. This is true for organisations of all sizes, but it’s a particular challenge for multi-site businesses, which (in some cases) are tasked with processing hundreds of invoices every month.
Concept’s Energy Bureau team work with organisations of all sizes to manage the whole process of receiving, validating and reporting on electricity, gas and water bills. Essentially, it means taking the burden off in-house finance teams and ensuring you only ever pay the correct amount for the energy and water you use.
At Concept, invoices can be stored securely online, and accessed via an online client portal – with access to real-time status info on progress with invoice dispute resolution. Where anomalies are found, or instances of overcharging, we investigate these and resolve them on your behalf.
Utility invoice management: Six benefits
- Savings from billing errors: We identify and investigate potential billing errors directly with the supplier, and unlike many companies, we don’t “share” in any savings retrieved, so you get full benefit of every saving secured. Billing errors are commonplace, and the potential savings are significant, so most organisations find that the process quickly pays for itself. We also investigate historical billing errors, which can be claimed as far back as six years in England and Wales, and five years in Scotland.
- Help with supply change admin: Many of our clients – particularly multi-site organisations (public and private sectors) rely on us completely to manage the process of utility management when they acquire, move or dispose of property. We will liaise with suppliers to manage supply contract arrangements, metering and data issues and of course check that invoicing is correct, to avoid duplications in charging and out of contract rates.
- Reduce the burden on in-house finance teams: Processing utility invoices can be an onerous task for finance staff – even these days when they are usually submitted electronically, rather than paper copy. Outsourcing the process of receiving validating and storing invoices frees up precious in-house resource.
- Tenant billing: For multi-tenanted sites, we calculate the individual consumption of tenants, ensuring timely and fair re-billing.
- Identify energy and water waste: Anomalies on bills help us to alert organisations to unusual consumption patterns which are often down to avoidable instances of waste, such as a water leak or lighting – or even main plant – left on in unoccupied sites, for example.
- Improved visibility for reporting and planning: We provide tailored reports on consumption and cost, helping organisations understand their utility spend and budget for next year. This is becoming increasingly important as companies respond to additional reporting requirements (statutory in some cases) and increased scrutiny of their environmental impact.
Taking a forensic approach to your energy and water spend is certainly not a new concept, but it’s an increasingly valuable exercise in this Covid era. Energy use in buildings and processes has become far less predictable, and billing has also become much more complex in recent years.
Utility bill management is not only one of the quickest ways to identify cost savings, but it also provides an excellent springboard into understanding where and how your organisation can reduce its carbon impact. It’s only by understanding how, where and when energy is being used, that organisations can start to set a meaningful and realistic plan for carbon reduction.
If you are re-evaluating the importance of invoice management to your organisation and would like some advice, get in touch with our Energy Bureau team.