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In an increasingly competitive market, it is more important than ever for installers to be able to offer unrivalled customer service. Martyn Bridges, director of marketing and technical support at Worcester, Bosch Group, provides an insight into what customers want from their heating engineer.
Without doubt, the remit of today’s heating engineer is wider than ever before. Not only does an installer have an extensive range of heating and hot water appliances and accessories to consider, but they also have legislation requirements to meet and Government incentives to promote.
Given the range of considerations installers have to take into account, not to mention maintaining a competitive pricing structure, it is important for them to have an understanding and appreciation of customers’ requirements.
At Worcester, we have always been focused on supporting the installer as best we can and one of the ways we do this is by carrying out extensive research projects to gain an insight into how homeowners go about sourcing their heating and plumbing work. With installers providing manufacturers with their primary route to the market, it is essential to be able to equip the industry’s professionals with both the products and knowledge needed to make the most of the business opportunities in the domestic sector.
Thanks to a combination of quantitative and qualitative research, we are able to paint a clear picture of the purchasing behaviour of homeowners in order to support the installer. After all the closer you are to your customers, the better the partner you provide.
The mind of the consumer
Our most recent homeowner research project was commissioned to give us an insight into the mind of today’s homeowner – taking an in-depth look at how they regard their heating and hot water system, and what they want from an installer.
One of the most notable findings of this research project was the discovery that while just under two thirds of homeowners have a regular trusted heating engineer to call upon if they encounter problems with their heating or hot water, over a third simply call a number of local installers to weigh up their options, with price and availability being dividing factors.
This third of homeowners may be a minority, but the figure represents millions of potential customers who don’t have any ‘relationship’ with a particular installer – a fact installers should bear in mind when looking at how to target new customers and grow their businesses.
In light of this finding, it is also important to have an awareness of the approach a homeowner takes to find a new heating installer. A sizable but perhaps inevitable 51% of respondents now see the internet as the first place they turn to when in need of a heating installer. It would be fair to say that in today’s competitive market, it is rare to find a business without its own website, but by the same token, merely having a website is only the beginning of a successful online marketing strategy.
Use of search engine optimisation (SEO) practices and having a presence on social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter will not only make the business easy for a customer to find, but will also create the opportunity to make use of company news and installation case studies – not to mention glowing customer testimonials.
Our research also shows that the vast majority of homeowners will seek an endorsement of some form – whether that be from a friend, a family member or a manufacturer – before investing in an installer and the work they can offer. As with any business sector, there is no better endorsement than word of mouth and this certainly applies to the plumbing and heating sector.
A distress purchase
There is no hiding from the fact that, most of the time, the installation of a new boiler or alternative source of heating and hot water comes following the breakdown of an existing appliance. It is the very nature of the heating industry that the products installed are considered ‘out of sight, out of mind’ and this mind-set is a tricky one to change.
A key consumer insight following our research project is that the homeowner rarely has a desire to be too concerned with the boiler itself, as long as it is able to operate quietly and efficiently.
The boiler may be an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ part of a property’s make-up, but it is also key to a comfortable living environment. Particularly over the winter months, customers want any installation work to be carried out neatly and quickly to ensure disruption is kept to a minimum and that they are not left out in the cold for any great length of time.
Peace of mind
Another facet of our research project highlighted the extra benefits a homeowner looks for when having a new heating system installed. While value for money is always a prime consideration, peace of mind is even higher on the homeowner’s list of priorities.
In terms of peace of mind, we need to consider more than just a reputable service – customers want a thorough explanation of their heating and boiler controls, the assurance that they can rely on their installer to return should any problems arise and good quality products with extensive guarantees to stand the test of time.
With the home heating system one of the more costly investments a homeowner will ever be required to make, it goes without saying that there is an onus on the installer to prove their credentials in order to win business.
By taking into consideration the wants and needs of potential customers, manufacturers can continue to give the installer base the best chance of growing their businesses.