Rabu, 25 Januari 2012

Rules and Regulations for Fair Energy Marketing/Retailing

To better provide you with a sense of security when enrolling with an electricity and natural gas marketer/retailer, we have outlined the regulated procedures for registering new consumers, and soliciting door to door sales. This article outlines the rules and regulations for energy marketer/retailers in Ontario, to better protect you and your natural gas and electricity bill from marketing scams. This article provides a number of warning signs to help you identify unfair sales practices before signing up to a contract with hidden conditions.

Fair Energy Marketing Practices

The rules and regulations are considered fair sales practices that each and every energy marketer/retailer should abide by when soliciting door to door sales. These guidelines are explained in detail in the Code of Conduct which is regulated by the Ontario Energy Board. This code describes exactly what every sales representative ought to do in order to honestly solicit home and commercial sales in Ontario.

Speak to a Legitimate Home or Business Owner

Sales representatives are told to exercise caution when soliciting home or commercial sales, and should make sure that they are consulting with a legitimate account holder before advancing with any sales presentations.

Who is Qualified to Sign?

Whether the contract is for a brand new fixed price agreement, a renewal or the extension of a pre-existing contract, the contract has to be signed by an appropriate signing authority. Energy marketer/retailers are also advised to use caution when selling to anyone who may have a language barrier, are over 70 years of age or under the age of 18, and does not clearly grasp the Terms and Conditions of the contract.

In residential cases, contracts should always be signed by the account holder, the account holder's spouse or the account holder's common law partner in order to be considered valid.
In commercial selling, contracts have to be signed by the business owner or a representative with permission to enter into contracts with respect to the business.
Provide a Business Card

Sales representatives should always offer every consumer a business card upon arrival. Standards for the business card consist of; the sales representatives name, Ontario Energy Board licence number, the energy marketer/retailer's name and address, toll-free telephone number and website address.

Provide Business and Product Material

Sales representatives should always supply accurate business and product information. They are required to mention to the consumer, that the business they represent is offering a fixed pricing agreement for the supply of natural gas and/or electricity and express that they are not the consumer's utility. Sales representatives are also instructed to inform consumers that they are not affiliated with the Ontario Energy Board or the Government.

Communicate Pricing and Contract Terms and Conditions

Sales representatives need to indicate the rate to be paid per unit under the contract as well as, the terms and conditions of the contract. At this time account holders should have the opportunity to read the contract and examine the terms and conditions, price comparison form and disclosure statement.

Don't Pressure the Consumer

When implementing door to door sales, sales representatives are to abstain from exerting stress on an account holder and are required to permit consumers the chance to look at all paperwork presented before making a decision to sign.

Provide Updated Sales Material

All sales content supplied is required to contain accurate, factual information that will not mislead the consumer, and in addition offer current pricing, an up-to-date disclosure statement, price comparison form and the contract's terms and conditions.

Be Truthful and Consistent with Communication

Sales representatives should always be consistent with all information and facts communicated to the account holder. Inaccurate information or a deceptive portrayal of the products and services offered are considered inappropriate sales tactics and a sales representative's compliance with the code of conduct is imperative.

Display a Legitimate Identification Badge

Every sales representative is provided with an energy marketer/retailer identification badge that should be displayed on external clothing making it recognizable to consumers. The representative's badge is required to contain the sales representatives identify, in addition to photo identification, the marketer/retailer business name, a valid identification number, and the badge expiration date.

Signing a Contract

When opting into to a brand new contract, be certain to request a copy of all sales material, prior to the sales representative exiting. Make sure you have been supplied with the following paperwork;

A signed and dated copy of your contract
A signed and dated disclosure statement for natural gas and/or electricity
A signed and dated price comparison form for natural gas and/or electricity
The energy marketer/retailer's Terms and Conditions
The sales representative's company card
After enrolling with the energy marketer/retailer you should receive a hard copy of any sales document on the spot. Among these sales materials you should have; the contract, price comparison form, contract terms and conditions, disclosure statements and any additional product information available.

3rd Party Affirmation Call

A call center representative will contact the account holder and approve the contract after the 10 day cooling off period, end date. The affirmation call permits the account holder the chance to have any information clarified and questions answered. The affirmation call is digitally recorded, and is initiated as an outbound call from the energy marketer/retailer.

The affirmation call describes the product(s) and service(s) purchased, contract pricing, and the terms and conditions of the contract through several Ontario Energy Board regulated questions. The energy marketer/retailer will keep this affirmation call on file for the course of the contract. Account holders should be able to request a digital copy of the affirmation call throughout the duration of their contract if desired.

10 Day Cooling Period

Under the Energy Consumers Protection Act 2011, otherwise known as the rules and regulations for selling to a consumer, a 10 day cooling off time period is allocated to provide account holders a time line during which they have the option to cancel their contract. Under the Energy Consumers Protection Act, consumers have the opportunity to terminate their contract cost-free, and without penalty, up to 10 days once the account holder has recognized receipt of a text-based copy of the contract.

When You Initiate the Sale

The affirmation call is not mandatory if the contract was entered into over the internet or if the account holder replied to an energy marketer/retailer's direct mail advertising campaign.

Signs of Unfair Sales Practices

Any phony, misguiding or fraudulent statements made to the consumer this includes; The terms and conditions of the agreement. Example: Leaving out significant details about; the contract length, termination of contract, renewal policies, crucial dates, extra charges, etc.

Information regarding the quality or characteristics of the energy source and/or products supplied. Example: Stating that they will provide you with green energy when they don't.

The track record of an energy marketer/retailer, or the businesses association with an alternative electricity supplier or gas marketer. Example: Misleading statements which include misrepresentation, pretending to be from the utility or the government.

The contract pricing and any extra fees are required to be clearly stated in the contract.Example: Not telling consumers that the contract rates will only come into play in the event that the utility cost surpasses the energy marketer/retailer.

Taking an unconscionable action on the part of the account holder. Example: When a sales representative has unfairly exploited an account holder who might not fully grasp the agreement terms and conditions, has a language barrier, elderly, disabled or pressured into entering into onto a contract.

Failure to communicate specifics details on products, services, or the energy marketer/retailer's business. Example: Leaving the account holder with the perception that the sales representative is associated with or represents a local utility, the government or Ontario Energy Board.

Permitting an unqualified individual to sign into a new contract/renew or extend the length of a contract when the individual is not the account holder or an appropriate signing authority for the home or business.
Examples of forgery or fraud include, but are not restricted to:

Signing the account holder's name on the contract
Performing modifications to the contract after the account holder has authorized it
Pretending to be the account holder during the course of the reaffirmation call
Registering an account holder under deceptive pretences
If you decide to buy natural gas or electricity from an energy marketer/retailer besides your local utility, you should be informed of your legal rights as a consumer. The Code of Conduct for energy marketer/retailers is regarded as, the rules for ALL energy marketer/retailers supplying energy in Ontario. There are no exceptions to these legal guidelines and each and every sales representative must abide by these procedures and guidelines.

Kamis, 05 Januari 2012

Insurance Agency Marketing - A 7 Step Approach to Marketing Today's Insurance Agency

Marketing your insurance agency has changed so much in the past 10 years; it is difficult to know where to start. Most of the new clients that hire us, have URLs that are less than 5 years old. This shows how dramatically and quickly the industry has changed when marketing their agencies. Today, most consumers will utilize the internet to find your information through various directories, organic search results and even social media.

You may be wondering, "Where do I begin?" We've put together a short list of ways to increase your web presence and reclaim your position as a top insurance agency marketer.

Step 1: Update your website

If your website looks like it hasn't been updated since 1997, it's probably time to do so. There are many resources to easily build a website such as "WebSite Tonight" by GoDaddy or services such as Wix, which will get you a nice looking website using templates. But, be careful of websites that utilize too much flash as it will likely hamper your ability to get much traffic to your website, besides direct traffic.

Step 2: Invest in SEO

If you're unfamiliar with what SEO means (Search Engine Optimization) you probably should talk to someone about optimizing an existing website or building you a new one that is optimized from the start. SEO is all about getting organic search traffic to your website. For instance, if someone types in "Insurance Agency Seattle" you want to be the agent who Google shows first or at minimum on page one. If you're not on page one, you're missing out on almost 93% of all search traffic.

Step 3: Get Email Hosting

I can't tell you how many of our clients still use email addresses at email providers like Yahoo and Hotmail, such as: "taber@hotmail.com". Show your prospective clients that you're an established business by using domain registered email accounts. Most hosting companies will provide at least a handful of them for free with your website hosting, so take advantage. Customers are more likely to buy from an agency that shows professionalism on all fronts, including their email.

Step 4: Fix your local listings

The web is littered with directories. There are so many, it would be nearly impossible for you to go to each one and update the listings entirely. Furthermore, it would be a waste of time. Go to the big ones like Yelp, Yahoo, Google Plus Pages, etc. Complete the listings in the 20 most popular ones, ensuring that your (NAP) name, address and phone numbers are consistent on all of them. If you spell out Avenue in one, do not use AVE. in another. Many directory links are treated like SPAM now, so they aren't giving your websites any credibility.

Step 5: Be Social

Social media is the new trend. It can be time-consuming, but it allows you an opportunity to stay in touch with existing customers and also, attract new ones! Begin simply by setting up a Facebook page for your business and add content, news, links to other articles, etc., at least one time per week. Social Media isn't going anywhere soon, so don't let your agency get too far behind by not participating in this area where millions of Americans are having conversations!

Step 6: Install Analytics on your Website

Google offers a tremendous tool to track your website traffic called Google Analytics. This tool allows you to see what keywords people are using when they find your website. If you find that your website isn't getting much traffic, this tool can help you fine tune it so that you can capitalize on search traffic. Furthermore, Google has a keyword tool so you can search for terms before optimizing your website. If you hired someone for step 2, they should have taken care of this!

Step 7: Send out Electronic Agency Newsletters

The number 2 reason that customers leave their insurance agent is because they haven't heard from you! Stop attrition in its tracks by communicating with your clients about new products, new team members at your agency, local events, a local charity you're working or any other news. If you're not communicating with your existing customers, someone else is. Electronic newsletters cost about $.02 per email. Most agency management systems and some carriers can help you sort your collected email addresses. If you have a larger budget, around $1,000 per mailing, consider mailing a quarterly newsletter. A couple of email service providers to consider are: MailChimp and ConstantContact.