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Cold snaps put extra pressure on boilers, which in turn puts pressure on both your business and your customers – with breakdowns topping the list of winter stresses for many. Richard Harvey, category director for plumbing and heating at Wolseley, explains can heating engineers and plumbers make sure their business is prepared for the winter.
Maybe it goes without saying, but the days of people flipping open their local directory and selecting AAA Plumbers because they are first on the list are long gone. The way people buy goods and services has changed, making it absolutely vital that you keep your business front of mind by promoting it in the places that customers look for information.
A survey completed in 2018 by Eureka found that word of mouth is still the most critical route for finding a tradesperson. Yet in the digital world, word of mouth goes beyond just friends and neighbours, with 92% of consumers relying on online reviews before making a booking.
For this reason, having some kind of online presence is increasingly important.
With a seemingly endless list of marketing options open to you – from traditional newspaper and directory advertising to social media, paid online ads to email marketing, flyers through doors to review sites like Checkatrade – the key is to figure out where your leads come from and make sure you do more of what works for you.
We’ve already touched on the fact that many tradespeople get their business through word of mouth. While customer service, reliability, punctuality, and building a good customer relationship are all vital, technology can also play a part in securing repeat business.
Consider investing in software which will automatically schedule boiler servicing reminders for your customers. By sending them an email or text message when their service is due, you will remind your customers of the importance of regular servicing, while also making it easy for them to simply book the job in with you. In addition, scheduling this kind of routine work in advance gives you more control over your workload, allowing you to fill your diary during quieter periods and keep busy periods free for emergency call-outs.
When the so-called ‘Beast from the East’ hit in 2018, plumbers and heating engineers all over the country were called out on emergency visits to fix broken down boilers. In 1000s of cases, the cause was nothing more than a frozen condensate pipe – easily fixed, but not a top priority when emergencies might be taking place elsewhere. While some might have taken this as an opportunity for a cup of tea while the kettle was warming the water for the highly technical job that came next, the more savvy took the decision to share their tips for an easy fix, educating their customers and freeing them up to focus on the more urgent jobs.
With that in mind, think about sharing your knowledge with customers this winter. Put together your list of top tips for surviving winter – anything from how and when to bleed radiators, the importance of boiler servicing, how to check/adjust boiler pressure or how to insulate pipes – and share it with customers via your website, social or by putting flyers through people’s doors. Plumbing is a specialised industry and most consumers don’t know much—if anything—about it. Help your customers feel educated and empowered, and you’ll win their trust and their business.
We don’t have to think back far to remember the scenes of chaos last winter, when the roads were brought to a standstill with freezing ice and snow. Yet, at a time when many can opt to stay at home and keep warm when extreme weather hits, plumbers and heating engineers become the fourth emergency service – answering calls of distress when people’s boilers break or pipes burst. When bad weather hits, be aware of the dangers of ice and remember to prepare for the winter with cold-weather tyres and spare warm clothes or blankets in case the snow gets so bad you become stranded. In addition, make sure tools are brought in from the cold – leaving them out can make plastics brittle, metal susceptible to rust and power tools likely to have a shorter lifespan.
As an expert in your field, your customers will expect you to know the best products available on the market. Winter brings with it additional costs for many of us, with the expense of Christmas an added financial burden at this time of year. For both of these reasons, it pays to familiarise yourself with the best deals on the market. Many larger retailers, such as Wolseley, have additional money-saving offers and boiler packages available online during the winter months. Whether you plan to pass the cost-savings on to your customer, or simply make a bit more margin on parts, it is worth checking out the best deals so that you’re armed with the facts when the time comes.
With smart technology also the flavour of the moment, be ready to help your customers to understand the benefits of systems like Hive and Nest and the differences between these veteran smart thermostat bands and the versions launched by boiler manufacturers such as Baxi, Honeywell and Vaillant.
The truth is, you’re never truly off the job in winter – at any given moment someone’s boiler could break down or their pipes could freeze and burst thanks to the cold weather. So, before the Polar Vortex hits and the UK is plunged into sub-zero temperatures, take the time to get your business winter-ready.
For boilers and heating suppliers, plus a wide range of other plumbing products, visit www.wolseley.co.uk or pop into your local branch.