Zog Energy is a domestic energy supply company founded by two double Queen’s Award-winning entrepreneurs, Tony Chester and Andrew Cleveland.

Tony and Andrew wanted to find the best energy solution for their own families and realised how difficult it is to establish the best rate amongst the big six providers. This made them think of what they would do if they ran their own energy company, and so Zog Energy was born.

Shortly after the company’s inception, the founders quickly knew that they wanted to drive the business forward by offering the most reliable payment service for their customers – that is Direct Debit. They needed a supplier that excelled in automation and would fit with their current IT infrastructure in order to make it easy and streamlined for customers to be able to set up their Direct Debit instructions. After researching many different Direct Debit bureaux, and assessing each using a scoring system, SmartDebit came out on top, as it was the only one that could offer them an all-encompassing API.


Integrations to power long-term growth

Tony and Andrew initially set up Zog Energy whilst working in full-time employment, so the time they could spend on the start-up was limited, however they still had a vision of growth for the company and weren’t willing to let time be a limiting factor. Finding a provider that could take on all aspects of payments, along with giving them an API to integrate into their CRM system was imperative to the business, as it would provide a level of automation to help Tony and Andrew focus on other areas of the business during the pivotal stages.

Prior to committing to SmartDebit’s system, they had spoken to other bureaux about whether they could provide them with an API, which they couldn’t, and instead attempted to provide them with “complicated calendars, stating when to send files over and it all just seemed too complex”. This type of system wouldn’t work for them and they needed another solution this is where SmartDebit came in.


Streamlining CRM and payments through automation

Once the initial conversations with SmartDebit had begun, Andrew and Tony recall it being “really simple to get started” as SmartDebit provided a test system to see if everything worked within their systems before going live. After everything had been confirmed, SmartDebit wished to ensure that Zog Energy’s website was compliant with the Bacs rules and guidelines, so supplied them with instructions on what they needed to include on their website to ensure everything was above board and ready to go.

Continuing the theme of compliance and to ensure that the Zog team understood everything regarding Direct Debit, SmartDebit arranged to visit Zog’s offices to deliver Bacs Accredited Training, which Tony and Andrew “found really beneficial”. This was pivotal to their future success, as they gained full understanding of the Bacs reporting and the terminology that they would encounter on a day-to-day basis.

Streamlining the process has always been a high priority for Tony and Andrew, which is why building the IT infrastructure themselves utilising cloud-based service Amazon Web Services (AWS) along with combining their CRM system, Sugar, with SmartDebit’s API, have all been instrumental in making this successful. With over 14,000 payers on the system, using a payments provider that can supply an end to end trusted service that Andrew and Tony “rely on 100%”, from the initial input of customer data to processing, whilst also providing accurate reports “takes away all hassle” from the business owners.

The flexibility of SmartDebit’s service has also added to Zog’s delight in the company. They use multiple support options offered by SmartDebit if any queries need to be answered. For standard queries, Zog uses our online portal, Pulse, or live chat to speak to someone from our Customer Service team, and for any urgent queries they know that they can pick up the phone and speak with their account manager and the issue will be sorted out effectively and efficiently. Since Zog started processing with us, they have also seen a change in the length of time it takes for them to receive the funds to their bank from when it has been collected from customers. This has led to them being able to keep regular assurance over their cash flow and has enabled their expenses to be paid on time without any worries about income delays.

After two years of collecting Direct Debits Tony and Andrew realised that they were wasting valuable time manually processing refunds to customers, and they wanted this to change. In 2016, the decision was made to utilise SmartDebit’s Direct Credit system, SD Direct, with bespoke development completed by SmartDebit to make sure that the product worked for Zog’s infrastructure, and they haven’t looked back since.


Scalable solutions as standard

Tony and Andrew have a very specific vision for the company, which has been their motivation throughout their business journey. They would like to see Zog Energy continue to grow at a steady pace but also help other providers enter the space with fewer barriers by supporting them with their IT product that they have used to integrate into Zog. They view themselves as more of an “IT company that does energy supply”, which is why having a hands-off approach to a lot of Zog’s payment tasks proves incredibly useful for them. This also assists them with costs to their business as Tony states, “we haven’t had to take on double the number of staff to facilitate the payment side of things”, as they prefer to keep a small team to focus on other areas of the business as there is “no noise” coming from SmartDebit.

In summary, when speaking of their time so far with SmartDebit, they highlight many key features that keep them incredibly satisfied with the service. Andrew states “it’s scalable and it all just works”. They also reference that they couldn’t run without it and “although it is one of the most important aspects of the business, it’s one of the areas we spend the least time on”. Tony adds “it’s been easy and straightforward. SmartDebit have been very easy to deal with and their systems have worked faultlessly” and they both conclude by assuring us that they would “definitely recommend SmartDebit to other business owners”.

Choosing Direct Debit as the payment method for their business has been instrumental in making receiving payments a lot slicker and helping to allow Zog to put more time and effort into other areas of the business. By making that decision early on, it’s meant that customers have easily been able to onboard themselves right from the get-go and will continue to be able to do so without any manual work.