If you have a choice in utility providers, do your due diligence. Talk to friends or neighbors about the companies providing their utilities and the quality of service they've received. Ask questions like:
- What prompted you to choose those providers over others?
- How happy are you with the service?
- What's the customer service like?
- Have you had any problems -- and if so, how quickly were they fixed?
- What are the rates like?
- Are there any deals or discounts you know about?
Because we live in a hyper-transparent world, it's also helpful to do some research online. It's easier now than ever before to find out about companies' customer satisfaction levels. Visit utility companies' Web sites to determine what they offer and how these services stack up against competitors. Read customer reviews or opinions on blogs or sites like Yelp.com.
Another valuable and easy tactic for choosing the best utility provider is to jot down a pros and cons list. Pen a separate list for each kind of utility; one tally for cable companies, one for Internet providers and so on.
When it comes time to choose a provider, you can usually sign up online, over the phone or in person. The first two approaches just take a matter of minutes. Keep in mind, in-person transactions are more time-intensive because you have to commute to and from the provider's office, possibly waiting in line when you get there. Plus, it will cost you money in gas or public transportation fees to run the errand.
Some utilities, such as Internet, can only be set up when you're home. A technician may need to use your home computer during the installation, or may need to access an existing modem built into the structure of your home. Other utilities, like water service, don't depend on you being present. Just ask your provider about the setup process.