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The big switch

Sick of paying through the nose for bad service from banks and telcos? Then make 2010 the year you find a better deal. Stephen Craft uncovers some shortcuts to help you make the switch.

It’s official: Australian businesses are fed up with the big banks. They’re also reporting more problems with big business service providers like insurance and telecommunications companies. Yet they’re surprisingly reluctant to switch to a better deal.

So here are some tips and shortcuts to help you make the switch.

Step 1: Set your priorities

What’s most important to you: cost, reliability, service? Do you really need to earn interest on your transaction account, or is it better to save on fees? By deciding upfront what you’re looking for, you can simplify the process enormously.

Step 2: Do your research

Go online – or better yet, delegate a staff member to do it for you. Where possible, quantify the savings so you can make a more informed decision.

Here are some popular comparison and rating sites:

Step 3: Negotiate the deal

Now take the results of that research to your current provider and one or two alternatives. Ask them what they’re willing to do to win your business. The answer might surprise you -you might even be spared the inconvenience of switching.

Step 4: Make the switch

If you’ve found a better deal elsewhere, now it’s time to make the switch. Ensure you’ve got everything you need from your existing provider before you shut down your relationship with them. For example, you can only transfer an active phone number, so make sure the transfer happens before you cancel your existing service.

If you’re changing banks, make the most of the government switching package. You can find out more from:

Five things they don’t want you to know

  1. Most banks can negotiate a better rate or a fee waiver, particularly if you are bringing them a significant chunk of business. The published rate is only the starting point.
  2. There can be big variations in the amount quoted by different insurance companies for policies that are essentially identical – even relatively straightforward policies like compulsory third party vehicle cover.
  3. It’s usually easier to upgrade than downgrade. So if you’re not sure which mobile or broadband plan to choose, go low, then upgrade if you need to.
  4. Providers often offer a discount for prepayments – but those discounts may not be all that they seem. Money paid today is worth more than money paid next year, because they can earn (or save) interest on it in the meantime. (Economists call that the time value of money.) So if you’re paying upfront, make sure you’re getting real savings.
  5. New technologies like VOIP could help you make huge savings on telecommunications – and they’re improving all the time.

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