How We Started The Largest
Auto-Switching Service in the UK
Hi! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hello! My name is Henry de Zoete, and I am the co-founder of Look After My Bills, the largest auto-switching service in the UK with over 500,000 customers! Auto-switching is the easiest way to save money on your gas and electricity bills! We realised that many consumers do not switch their bills every year, which means they get rolled over to the standard tariff. This is the most expensive deal an energy supplier has.
Instead of being ripped off by suppliers, our service scans the market for consumers every year, and switches them to deals that save them money, for free! We handle all the switching for you.
We’ve saved our members a total of £120 million in just a couple of years, with our average saving being £259. But last week, we saved people an average of £322! And we do this service every year! We even had someone save over £2000 with us (though they did have an indoor swimming pool which is why they had such high bills)!
Find out more about auto-switching here: https://lookaftermybills.com/blog/what-is-auto-switching/
What is your personal story and how did you come up with the idea?
I started Look After My Bills with my friend from university, Will Hodson. Will and I not only went to the same university, but lived in the same halls, studied the same subject, and were even on the same football team, so it’s only right we started a business together!
We realised that in the last decade, energy companies’ profits kept soaring, yet consumer bills got more and more expensive!
Will’s deal had expired two years ago and cost him an extra £430! My own tariff had expired 3 years ago, and it cost me an extra £840! We both had been rolled onto our suppliers’ most expensive rates – which is the standard variable tariff!
The energy regulator, Ofgem reported that 72% of people were on the standard variable tariff.
Will and I were outraged that energy suppliers were getting away with charging loyal customers hundreds of pounds more than new customers! This is how the idea for Look After My Bills began, as we wanted to put the money back into the pockets of consumers, rather than the bosses of the Big Six energy companies.
It seemed crazy to us that people had to keep switching themselves every year, otherwise they were overpaying by hundreds of pounds. People don’t have the time or energy for it! So, we do it for you! Look After My Bills are always saving and never have to worry about their energy bills.
What challenges did you face when creating your product/service?
The concept of auto-switching is entirely new. People know about comparison sites but auto-switching, where someone does it for you, is entirely new and not something that has ever been done before! So we did face a fair amount of scepticism to begin with. This was from investors, but also from the public.
We did manage to raise some money for the business after we got into the San Francisco / Silicon Valley-based startup accelerator, Y Combinator. They have invested in startups like Airbnb, Dropbox and Stripe, so it was incredible to get funding from them and we spent an amazing three months out in California at the start of 2018.
Once we had investment, we then had to persuade the public. This was hugely helped by our appearance on Dragons’ Den in August 2018, where we negotiated the best deal in the history of the show – see articles at the time:
BBC – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-45244761
Blog we wrote about the experience of going on Dragons’ Den here: https://lookaftermybills.com/blog/dragons-den-backstage-experience/
That put auto-switching on the map, and we’ve seen a heap of competitors copycat us and come out after Dragons’ Den aired. They knew a good idea when they saw one! Competition is tough, but we’re by far and away the largest with 500,000 customers. The next biggest has about 30,000!
Who is your target market?
We have a very broad target audience – anyone who wants to save money on their energy bills! The youngest Look After My Bills customer is 18, and the oldest is over 90! So, we really have a huge range.
Our main market is people who are at an age where they may own a property or rent a flat and have direct responsibility for paying energy bills. We also have a facility which allows individuals owning multiple properties to sign up with us, meaning we can also help landlords across the country.
Geographically, Look After My Bills members are a very varied bunch. From the big cities to the depths of Scotland and Wales. We cover the entire country. We’re also currently working on new auto-switching services like broadband and we’ll move into lots of other areas in due course. It’s not just in energy where people get hit by the loyalty tax. If you don’t keep switching your insurance, broadband and even your savings accounts, you get rolled on to the worst deals. We will stop that from happening. The only loyalty that pays is loyalty to Look After My Bills!
How do you market your business and which approaches have been the most successful?
A huge chunk of our growth has been organic, particularly after our Dragons’ Den appearance! Social media has been amazing for us, as word of mouth travels a lot faster, and people can share their great experiences with our service to the world.
We also have a great refer a friend programme, where if you are an existing customer and you refer a friend, then both parties get rewarded with a £20 gift card. That has really boosted our growth.
In terms of paid advertising, we do all the usual digital marketing such as PPC and Facebook advertising. We’ve recently just launched our first ever TV advert. (You can watch below). So, we’re stepping into that world now which is very exciting.
Since you launched, what has worked in not only attracting but retaining customers?
We constantly ask our members for feedback once we have switched our members across to new suppliers and are completely honest with our members. Our website states exactly what we do, and what we do not do.
If we have a UK based customer service team on call for any questions – all working from home taking calls!
This not only ensures that our business can continue to improve for the future but also helps to build a relationship with our customers. This means they can put trust in our service and have faith that we are working to help them.
What kind of culture exists in your company, and how did you establish it?
Despite having a customer service team, we’re not like call centres. Our whole team is based under one roof (before corona!), and all have one shared ethos and mission. Helping people to save money on their energy bills. By having one clear mission and goal, this ensures that not only can our team stay focused on the mission at hand, but also convey the same energy across our business to our customers. Having the whole team under one roof solidifies the common mission across our business.
Our team also explain everything in a simple and straightforward way. The energy industry can be a very complicated game at times, and because of this our team don’t use any energy jargon, but instead keep everything simple and straightforward.
This ensures that our members are always aware of what is going on in their switch process, and if there are any issues or bumps along the road, they can rest assured that our friendly and calming team are there to help.
We try and have as flat a hierarchy as possible, so everyone in the team can feel like they can suggest an idea and it will be taken seriously. Some of our best innovations have been from our brilliant customer service team who are best placed to spot a problem and provide a solution. We also constantly take feedback from our team on how the service could improve, and how we can make our processes efficient. They are the first point of call for our members, so they are always aware of what is going on.
What software, services or tools do you use within your business?
Our business uses two main bits of software, which helps our company to do what we do. We have a CRM software which not only allows us to reply to our members’ comments and emails but also enables outbound and inbound calls. This allows our team to make sure we can low response times and can help with any queries or questions our members may have.
Our switching processes happen on our own built tech, utilising an algorithm to ensure we get the right deal for each customer’s unique circumstances. It also allows us to view everything we need to know regarding a member and their energy account. This includes their usage, previous suppliers, and meter information; all information that is crucial in our industry.
We are a paperless company, and because of this we also have a communication platform, which allows us to send bulk promotions and campaigns to our thousands of members.
What are the most important lessons have you learned on your business journey?
The number one most important thing is never giving up. We launched the business in 2014 but it was an entirely different business back then called The Big Deal. After four years we realised it wasn’t going to work out as well as we hoped. But we didn’t give up. We decided to take a risk and change the business model and approach entirely and launched Look After My Bills. The rest is history.
One thing I wouldn’t change is founding the business with a close friend. It’s so hard setting up a business and being able to do it with someone you get on incredibly well with meant it fun not painful. It also meant that whenever we did have the inevitable arguments we were able to hug them out straight after and nothing was ever held against each other. I wouldn’t change the experience of the last 7 years for the world.
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Being the master of your own destiny is a huge benefit of startup and entrepreneur life. Too many jobs see your future reliant on what other people say or think. Whereas when building something yourself it’s about what you can do. If you build something people like then you will succeed. If you don’t then, you won’t. Nothing else matters.
The other amazing thing about being an entrepreneur is starting with nothing and building a team. That camaraderie and love amongst a team in a startup is very special. Everyone looking out for each other and willing to go the extra mile to make it work because they believe in the mission.
What is your LEAST favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
There’s a lot of pressure, particularly when it comes to making payroll every month. You feel a lot of responsibility for your staff. They’ve taken a gamble by working for a startup, and you don’t want to let them down.
We’ve certainly had some hairy moments.
And right at the start back in 2014, I didn’t take a salary for over a year and had to pump my own money into the business to make payroll. That kind of pressure is tough.
What books, podcasts or other resources have inspired and influenced your business journey?
As an alumnus of Y Combinator, you won’t be surprised that a lot of startup school podcasts and Y Combinator podcasts were hugely helpful. There is a lot of free materials coming out of startups in the US that really does help.
Redi Hoffman’s Masters of Scale podcast also hugely helpful. In particular hearing from other founders and the experiences they went through.
Where do you see your business 2-3 years from now?
The number one goal is to take auto-switching mainstream. For people to look back and say that it was crazy that they had to do all the hard work themselves and switch every year, not just on their gas and electricity but also on so many other things too. Look After My Bills will be the new normal with millions of customers saving the smart way.