In December Utilitywise announced a new partnership with Business Stream, the largest non-domestic water operator in Scotland, to offer small and medium-sized businesses a combined deal for their water, gas and electricity.

Utillitywise will provide competitive gas and electricity tariffs to businesses, with Business Stream supplying water tariffs to complete the pioneering package.

The reasons for creating this joint offering are simple:

Firstly, the deregulation of the water industry in England next year will fundamentally reshape the broader market. Alarmingly, only 19 per cent of businesses in England are happy with their current supplier and we will endeavour to provide businesses with the quality service and competitive deals they are not getting currently. This partnership is a blueprint for the type of deals that will be available to businesses in 2017.

Secondly, we know that there is customer demand for a utilities one-stop-shop. In a recent Utilitywise-sponsored survey, over half (58 per cent) of Scottish businesses said they were interested in getting their gas, electricity and water as part of a combined package.

Everything is up for grabs next year as businesses across England seize control of their water supply for the first time. They will be free to assess the best deal for them rather than being assigned a tariff by a water company. The triple combo will provide businesses with a better deal on all three utilities.

Deregulation of the energy sector has normalised switching and the water industry is likely to follow suit. Many water suppliers risk being caught short as business customers will no longer have to tolerate poor customer service, billing problems and lack of competition. However, 19 per cent of businesses said in a recent survey that the complications of switching could prevent them from doing so.

Yet this also offers an opportunity for operators in the non-domestic water market – and indeed other utilities sectors.

Water companies should be preparing now by improving the fundamentals of business – service, correct billing and support. Customers are widely expressing dissatisfaction with their current supplier, so to maintain customers water companies need to improve. Defence is the best offence.

The future is in managed, simple switching and quality customer service. More focus should be on the customer – not the name at the top of the bill.

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