I’m the first to confess I’m no businessman but somewhat bizarrely I do have a degree in business.

Back in the dim and distant past, one of the modules I studied was something to do with customer relationship management – how you attract customers in the first place and having got them, how you keep them.

I may not remember much from my time at university but I do know that if you don’t have customers, you don’t have a business.

I mention this because at the weekend, I was doing a little bit of personal finance admin, sparked by reminders from our car insurers Direct Line and British Gas which provides our boiler and central heating maintenance cover. (I say provides but it should be in the past tense as we have kicked British Gas into touch.) Both companies would perhaps benefit from going on a customer relationship management course.

Let’s start with Direct Line. The good thing is insurance companies can no longer just auto-renew premiums so in a way, that forces you, the customer, to at least think about what you are being charged.

At first glance, our motor renewal price looked fine. It was only £3 or £4 more than last year. We were all set to sign up for it when completely by chance, I got a marketing email from Churchill insurance (oh yes I did).

Now I happen to know that Churchill and Direct Line are part of the same group and after putting in all my details, Churchill’s quote was £40 less than my renewal quote.

So I tried putting in my details with Direct Line and that came back around £35 cheaper.

So let’s get this right, the same insurance company offering the same level of cover was willing to charge more to a customer of seven years than to a Johnny-come-lately signing up for the first time.

Didn’t seem right to me – not much managing of my customer relationship going on there.

There is a happy-ish ending to this tale though. A quick ‘Money Saving Expert’-style phone call to Direct Line and as if by magic, my premium was dropped down to new customer level.

Not such a happy ending with British Gas and its Home Care cover with my renewal letter blithely telling me the company was putting up my premium by a whopping, eye-watering £70.

When I called to complain, I was told the minimum time I would be on hold before I could speak to the ‘right department’ was almost 40 minutes or they would call me back ‘some time in the next 72 hours’.

And to add insult to injury, the ‘new customer’ price for a better level of cover was £140 less than they wanted to charge me.

In reality, British Gas left me with no option. No one likes to feel they are being taken for a mug and as a result of its complete lack of empathy and customer care, I’m taking my business elsewhere.

As I was told all those years ago in my college lecture room – no customers means no business.

On another subject, Vic Barlow – aka The Dogfather – writes an entertaining and informative column about training dogs and I thought his piece which appeared on the Guardian’s website over the weekend was particularly thoughtful.

It dealt with the steps an owner should take to deal with their dogs during firework season. But at no time did Vic criticise those who let off fireworks nor did he call for a ban on them.

There was no hyperbole or faux outrage on Vic’s part, just calm simple advice about setting the tone for your dog.

What a pity then that on the Guardian’s website the very same weekend was a story saying dog owners across the country are calling for tougher regulations on fireworks according to a new study.

The survey, organised by pet supplements manufacturer Lintbells, heard from 2,000 dog owners, 96 per cent of whom called for the law to change, with 60 per cent saying unlicensed fireworks should be banned entirely.

Needless to say this did not go down too well with some readers.

MGBGA said: “Dogs barking over and over, running around licking people (yes it’s gross) and jumping at you. Dogs off leads, leaving a mess, peeing on everything. We have this 365 days a year, and they complain about a few fireworks.”

While martin70 added: “How about a tougher line on dog owners who allow their dogs to sit out yapping all day and charging the fence every time you go within 6ft of it?”

And the last word goes to NannyJA who said: “It’s the dog owners’ responsibility to make sure their dog is not scared, not everyone else’s.

“There are plenty of things available on the market and they can be trained. Those of us who choose not to own a dog shouldn’t have to miss out on having private firework parties at home (like I am with my children and grandchildren).

“I do agree that they should only be sold a few days before Bonfire Night and New Year to lessen misuse.

“I’d also like to sit in my own home without listening to dogs barking every single day.”

As my old gran used to say: “Least said, soonest mended.”

By Guardian columnist The Fly in the Ointment