What installers need to know about BOXT

Described as the ‘Uber of boiler installers’, the arrival of BOXT – a new online boiler purchasing service – has created huge levels of interest in the heating industry. Installer met with the founders to better understand the aims of the company.
Having launched a hugely successful installation business with Help-Link, Alan Dickinson and Mel Butler decided to combine their industry insight with the quickly-developing digital market to create a new business model for buying, selling and fitting boilers – BOXT.
The premise is straightforward – the consumer buys a boiler online (after completing questions about their home and existing boiler) and then an independent installer arrives at their door at an agreed time to fit it. For Alan and Mel, the business opportunity is in the boiler sales market, but for installers who sign up and are approved by BOXT, the opportunity is in being paid to fit pre-sold boilers.
“We used to view it as one million boilers going into private homes or private landlord properties that everyone could go after,” explains Mel when the topic comes up of just how big the boiler market is. “But, in reality, big companies with overheads can’t go after most of those because the market price offered is too low. The majority of the market is actually undertaken by the sole trader with low overheads.
“This is definitely the most price-conscious industry – a ‘great’ job has been done over the years of undervaluing the skills of installers and plumbers and dragging the price down. Unfortunately, this doesn’t actually benefit the industry and its reputation.
“One of our aims is to drive a better consumer experience and – through that – generate more appreciation for the installer.”
One of the great levellers in recent years is that those ‘unique selling points’ that used to be reserved for the large, national installation businesses are being eroded. Now, with the advent of apps and various software packages, even sole traders are able to take digital payments, offer finance and effectively schedule workloads. This means that more and more jobs are potentially available for every registered and qualified installer – whatever the size their business.
Furthermore, the arrival of the condensing boiler and tighter regulations in 2005 resulted in an improvement in standards across installations. After more than ten years, a significant number of that initial wave of installations is coming to the end of the life cycle, making the units ready to replace. This, according to Alan, is crucial to the success of the BOXT programme.
“When we started to think about BOXT, we thought about what the majority of boiler installs now looks like – and, in truth, that’s a simple boiler on/boiler off switch with the addition of new controls. Our next objective was to discover whether or not consumers would buy a boiler online – without actually talking to anyone face-to-face. We needed to know that before we spent a whole load of money on websites, marketing, etc.”
Once the consumer has completed the online survey and decided which boiler to buy, they get sent an email that asks them to take five photos – with examples to make sure they get each one right. These photos are then sent to the BOXT technical team who verify that all the information is correct and that the boiler that the consumer has selected is actually suitable for their property.
These photos are also shared with the installer so that he/she knows what to expect when they arrive on-site to fit the boiler. There are no surprises for them – which makes the process even smoother for everyone concerned.
When the work is complete, the installer has to take ‘after’ photos. These are then sent to the BOXT team and audited. If the job is properly done, the installer gets paid the same day.
With BOXT, it’s important that the installers are as happy with the process as the consumers are because without them there is no-one to fit the boilers. The key, according to Alan, is to make sure that the installers can rely on everything being in place and straightforward when they arrive at a property.
To achieve this, they are sent all the images and information that has come from the consumer.
Plus, the boiler (and everything needed to complete the job) is already on-site and waiting for them – in one big box. This means there is no time wasted and no need for early morning trips to the plumbers’ merchant. Finally, any additional work highlighted by the consumer that is not part of the boiler exchange – fitting new radiators, changing taps, etc – can be taken on by the installer if they want, but is a separate conversation with the consumer (using agreed BOXT rates).
“We identified the areas – through our previous time at Help-Link – when you actually have the potential to create more problems than you solve, and looked to simplify the process. Simply put, we’re the boiler exchange company – that’s what we offer.”
“What’s very different about BOXT is that it is a retail proposition. The consumer is buying the boiler, the pipework, the fittings, etc as if they were buying a television. It gets delivered to you and then the installer comes along and fits it. It’s already paid for and everything in that box is yours.
“If you buy a washing machine, the retailer will also offer to install it for you for an additional fee. This is exactly the same. There’s no up-sell – the consumer is almost entirely in control of the process, and we think it is this aspect that makes it so comfortable a process for them.”