Ensuring customers understand the need for regular boiler servicing can help them retain warranties and generate long-term repeat business for installers.
To address the housing crisis, the government has set a target of building at least one million homes over the next five years – approximately 200,000 homes a year.
In addition, April 2018 sees the introduction of a new green energy bill that means properties with an energy performance certificate (EPC) grade of F or G cannot be let, or existing tenancies renewed. One in five commercial landlords are expected to be affected by this change and will need to upgrade their heating systems. That’s a lot of boilers.
In order to support new home owners and landlords, installers should be getting in touch before the year is out to educate customers on the merits of regular boiler servicing, while at the same time boosting their order books for years to come.
Don’t assume that your customers know what a boiler service is – they may confuse it with a safety check and miss their annual maintenance without realising. Take time during the installation process to explain that having a reliable and well-maintained boiler to provide hot water and heat is a daily essential. Poorly maintained or faulty boilers present issues such as increased energy bills, leaks and damage to property. They can even cause serious health risks, including fatal carbon monoxide poisoning which, due to its colourless and odourless nature, is not easily detectable.
Inform them that a boiler service ensures that the boiler is running safely and efficiently. A full service must be carried out annually and in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, to ensure that the warranty remains valid. Regular servicing increases the lifetime of the boiler, improves efficiency and reduces monthly fuel costs.
Many customers are shocked to hear that a service is different from a safety check, especially when you tell them a service requires the boiler to be stripped right back and the casing removed to carry out a series of inspections, which include the following:
- Visual checks of pipework
- Checking boiler parts and main components
- Testing operating controls
- Looking for signs of corrosion
- Testing for gas leaks
- Checking gas pressure
- Assessing flue safety
- A number of safety checks in accordance with gas regulation (GSIUR 1998)
- Cleaning and removing dirt and debris
- Replacing casing and checking seals
Reassure each home owner or landlord that, once the service is complete, if the boiler does not meet the relevant building and gas safety regulations you will talk this through with them and explain any repairs or additional maintenance required. It may also be worth explaining the importance of using manufacturer approved parts to ensure that warranties remain valid, so that they are not tempted to cut corners on cost.
At the end of the service, you and your customer should sign a report to confirm that they are happy with every element of the service. A copy of the report should be readily available for customers if required. You will also need to fill in the service record, which is part of the installation and service manual. This document is essential if the customer needs to book a repair visit during the boiler warranty period.
1m – The amount of homes scheduled to be built over the next five years
20%- The proportion of commercial landlords who will need to upgrade boilers under new legislation
All major boiler manufacturers offer a warranty on their products. A boiler warranty is like an insurance policy. The boiler manufacturer promises to look into the problem, but is entitled to charge for call-outs, and the terms of a warranty can be changed without notice.
Manufacturers such as Baxi, Worcester Bosch and Ideal have warranties from around two to 10 years. The warranty is only valid if the appliance has been fitted by a Gas Safe registered engineer and a Benchmark commissioning checklist is completed in full at the time of installation.
Remember, the boiler must be registered within 30 days of installation and the appliance needs to be serviced once a year by a Gas Safe registered engineer for the lifetime of the warranty.
Failing to register the appliance, lack of servicing, neglect, and faults being fixed by either the customer themselves or an unqualified or unregistered installer can cause a warranty to become invalid.
With the government’s new homes initiative and energy saving a priority, boiler servicing offers installers a great opportunity to retain customers for repeat business (see box below). If you install a boiler from Baxi, for instance, you have the potential to keep a customer for 10 years or more through servicing alone.
The Ideal Vogue boiler, for example, even offers a service reminder scheme to help you provide value-added service to your customers. Following registration, the manufacturer supports you through a combination of customer reminders and SMS prompts so you can call ahead and book in your service at the right time.
Home owners have the right to expect that their new boiler and heating system is installed safely and professionally, and that subsequent servicing is up to the same standard. The Benchmark commissioning checklist initiative has been developed to ensure this.
Benchmark is a joint campaign from the UK’s major gas boiler manufacturers and the Heating and Hotwater Industry Council to rid the industry of incompetent installers and ensure home owners remain safe.
By completing and signing the Benchmark commissioning checklist, installers provide the customer with reassurance and evidence that these requirements have been met. If a commissioning checklist is not completed when a heating system is installed, the warranty becomes invalid.
Through linking the commissioning checklist with their warranty, manufacturers are supporting the compliant and professional installers who do their job well, while sending out a message to cowboy installers that manufacturers will not carry the cost of installations that have not been carried out in line with their guidelines.
GROWING YOUR BOILER SERVICING BUSINESS
- Offer your customers help with appliance registration and warranty validation
- Set up a calendar reminder after the initial installation to remind customers about their annual boiler service or sign up to a manufacturer-led scheme
- Book in a check-up around six to eight weeks after initial installation to answer any questions or make recommendations for energy saving
- Educate customers on how to make the most of their smart meters, and support home owners on how to manage heating in their home with smart controls such as the Nest learning thermostat or Drayton miGenie
- Discourage customers from carrying out repairs themselves
- Use recommendations and rating sites such as Facebook, Feefo or Trustpilot to increase word-of-mouth recommendation and build a reputation for boiler servicing
- Promote your Gas Safe certification and boiler servicing on your marketing materials, such as your business card, flyers, website or Facebook page
Helping customers manage their heating more efficiently can not only reduce bills, but can also create new opportunities for installers
Over the past four decades Robert Barkwell has transformed his father’s business into one of the UK’s largest plumbing and heating firms, specialising in the new-build domestic market
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