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For many installers working alone with increasingly sophisticated systems, technical support services can be a lifeline. Nick Bennett, director of service at Vaillant Group UK, highlights how the company provides a helping hand.
Installers have always had a challenging job, with responsibility for the most complex – and potentially dangerous – system in the home firmly in their hands, but technology has only intensified this by increasing the variety and unpredictability of their work. On one call out, an engineer can be working on a modern combi with internet connected controls; on the next, they might be fault finding on an old back boiler that was installed before they were born.
As well as the boilers themselves, they have to find faults and maintain heating controls, thermostatic radiator valves in each room, and even renewable technologies. So, technical support services that can provide an answer as swiftly as possible are invaluable.
Historically, technical support often meant someone standing and reading from a manual, but things have changed drastically. All of Vaillant Group’s technical advisors spend time out on the road with installers and engineers, so they can understand the pressures and complexities involved in on-site gas work. As Phil Day, senior technical advisor, says: “You do a great job of understanding the product, but now imagine trying to do it 10 feet up, in a dark loft, with a customer staring up at you and wondering when you’ll have the heating back on.”
The technical advisors sit next to a wall mounted with Vaillant and Glow-worm controllers, ‘dry’ boilers, and parts, meaning they can be in front of the exact same make and model of product as the installer is, working through the problem step-by-step, within seconds. For more complex questions, there is a training centre with boilers that are connected to gas and water.
The team’s work is part of a wider focus on installer support. As well as increasing the number of technical advisors by 40% in 2017, Vaillant Group UK is also investing heavily into its online Knowledge Base with enhanced digital images, making it more interactive than ever before.
Nevertheless, there is sometimes no substitute for personal interaction, which is why the business is also investing in refining processes to make sure calls are answered as fast as possible by a technical advisor with experience of working on the tools. As Phil says: “Sometimes, there’s just no substitute for the insight of someone who has stood in your shoes and done your job.”
End of the line
The team processes around 1500 queries per day on the trade technical line, including general enquiries, fault finding, and specification and installation advice.
There is another line dedicated to answering queries from homeowners about basic boiler maintenance and product usage, such as defrosting a frozen condensate pipe or re-pressurising the system. In these instances, the digital assets really come into their own, as the team can send the homeowner a link to a video that takes them through the process, step by step. This keeps unnecessary call-outs to a minimum, meaning installers have more time to get on with more lucrative installation and repair jobs.
If installers come across an issue they haven’t seen before, then we can send out one of our expert engineers to the customer’s property to help. The engineer will then call them to explain the problem and what the resolution was. Most installers value these callbacks as it helps them to provide a better service to their customers, so the next time they visit they know exactly what work has been carried out.
Installers have busy and stressful jobs with lots of responsibility on their shoulders. Supported by technical support services, they can take comfort in knowing that there’s always somebody at the other end of a phone who can help them.