Weather Warning – Prior Planning
Our changeable weather means heating can be required at almost any time of year. Customers’ attitudes to servicing need to change accordingly in order to ensure systems remain fit for purpose.
Do you remember seasons? It seems to be that the lines between seasons have become so blurred as to cause confusion (or perhaps it’s just me?). Take the weather. There can be frost warnings in July and yet it is perfectly possible to get sunburnt in March. September used to be when you got your coat out of the wardrobe and now October can often be positively balmy.
And don’t get me started on the football season! Just as the championships and FA Cup final pass we start pre-season friendlies, international competitions and the like. Cricket has winter tours, the IPL and one-day internationals. No wonder sportspeople are suffering from increased injuries, and not just strained backs from carrying sacks full of money to the bank.
Remember seasonal food? We ate the products as they became available, such as strawberries in the summer and early Jersey potatoes in the spring. Now, we expect abundance all year round as food is transported across the planet to match our expectations.
We used to have a ‘heating season’ but now it is a much more complicated calendar. If we have frost in June then we will run our heating. Similarly, if it is 20°C in October then we won’t want our heating to come on.
The reason we have a ‘heating season’ is largely driven by the fact that we suddenly increase demand on our heating systems, many of which have lain idle for some time and then we encounter failures. The vast majority of major component replacements happen as a result of breakdowns.
Perhaps these changes in demand will result in a more even distribution of demand across 12 months? It certainly makes more sense to have work done on your heating system during the summer when urgency is less of a priority.
It’s certainly the case in the commercial sector where the summer months are seen as an opportunity to service and upgrade systems while still maintaining everyday working, or sometimes fitting work into holiday periods.
Unfortunately, our busy lives mean that we all demand 24-hour service, which in turn makes us all busier. It’s both cause and effect. The onset of electronic communications has led to the expectation of an instant response. Shops used to close on a Sunday and, in my youth (admittedly some time ago), on a Wednesday afternoon. Now, shops in major cities are open until 10pm and online shopping means we can make our purchases whenever and wherever we want.
So, is it unreasonable to expect consumers to take a forward view and purchase preventative maintenance? It will often be a condition of any product guarantee. The downside has to be significant enough to encourage participation. How long would you be willing to be without heating? The availability of spare parts and a professional installer will undoubtedly be more challenging in busy periods.
As ever, to address inertia, the answer has to be an easy call to action. If regular servicing was booked in advance and recorded, just as you would with a motor vehicle, then householders may be more engaged. The ‘Benchmark’ scheme has been operated by the Heating and Hot Water Industry Council for many years, offering a servicing log book together with documented evidence that the product has been correctly installed.
There is now plenty of excellent supporting evidence to show the benefits of both servicing and updating of heating systems, demonstrating quantifiable results financially and in terms of extending the useful life of component parts.
All we need to do is to present the information and services in an attractive and easily-understood format. This is why Plumb Center is looking at some new initiatives, such as installer sales training and messaging for consumers, to help installers to present the facts. Keep your eyes open for some opportunities coming your way in the future that help us all to plan our business more consistently and to provide our customers with better efficiency and security.
‘Remember seasonal food? We ate strawberries in the summer and early Jersey potatoes in the spring’
Persuading people to make decisions now based on what is likely to happen in the future is not easy.
Exhibitions have been connecting buyers and sellers for decades and, while the format may change, there’s still nothing quite like a trade show for bringing people together
It’s important that installers take the time to explain why prices are what they are, and resist any temptation to undersell themselves.