Category Archives: Information & Advice

Articles and blog posts related to all manner of home improvements for both installers and consumers. Product/installation information, tips and advice.

Opportunity for Tradespeople as Homeowners Look to Improve, Not Move

A recent survey has revealed that UK homeowners are set to spend up to £55.5 billion on home improvements in the next 12 months. 47% of Brits are worried about the impending impact that Brexit may have on the housing market, resulting in many looking to ‘improve not move’. [1]

What does this mean for installation companies?

51% of those surveyed were planning home improvements in the next year with 39% looking to spend between £2,000-£10,000. [1]

With more homeowners looking to ‘improve not move’, this is a real window of opportunity for installation companies to generate new business in what is an uncertain marketplace given the forthcoming general election and Brexit.

How can installers seize the opportunity?

Most homeowners get multiple quotes before choosing a company to carry out works in their homes. Price is one of the main factors that homeowners will take into consideration, but equally important is trust, confidence and reliability.

Being a member of a consumer protection scheme, which gives consumers full peace of mind, reinforces trust and credibility with customers which helps convert more sales.

If all else fails, according to research by Boiler Guide, customers are automatically more likely to trust you if your name is Nigel. This is closely followed by the names Gary and Paul. Bad luck if your name is Jack though, you had better keep reading and get signed up to a consumer protection scheme as soon as possible! [2]

How can consumer protection schemes help?

The DGCOS, HICS and HIES consumer protection schemes ensure that consumers are protected before, during and after their home installation:

  • Being an accredited installer in our trusted network really does make a difference. This shows potential customers that they can trust that the company has been vetted and adhere to a scheme’s rules.
  • Marketing material can help create a lasting impression with customers and help increase conversions. Most installers use our supporting material across a wide variety of formats (including on company websites, social media, emailed and given out directly) to help demonstrate the full extent of the consumer protection and benefits they’ll receive.
  • Quite often the first hurdle is taking the deposit. At this point, you have done no work and you are asking for a large sum of money based on your word/reputation. Being able to offer your customers deposit protection gives them extra confidence at the point of sale.
  • Providing customers with valid, reputable, insurance means that customers can rest assured knowing if the installation company ceases to trade, the workmanship guarantee will be protected. For your peace of mind as an installer, make sure this is a policy without difficult exclusion clauses that could leave your customers unprotected.
  • If things should go wrong, customers also have an extra layer of security knowing that they can access free ADR (alternative dispute resolution services) and free access to the Ombudsman.

How to join?

If you’d like to find out more about the benefit of joining HICS and becoming a member, please contact the Service Delivery team via our contact form or call 0333 323 2655.

 [1] A nationwide survey conducted by Checkatrade.com
[2] An analysis conducted by Boiler Guide

Smart Homes Require ‘Smart’ Installers

smart home technology

Installers, are you future-proofed? Are you keeping up to date with the latest innovations? If so, you may be delving into the world of smart home technology. In fact, that may be the very reason you have clicked on this blog. If you are an installer whose homeowners are investing in smart home technology or you are just eager to learn more and close a few knowledge gaps, you’re in the right place. This guide will walk you through the basics of smart home technology and how to use the technology to sell more.

What is a smart home?

A smart home uses technology to improve home life. Homeowners can control electronic devices in the home in real time or through automation. Three popular examples are lighting, security and heating. These smart devices are connected to the internet and can be controlled using a mobile phone or any other networked device. Other terms for smart homes are home automation and smart buildings.

What are the benefits of smart homes?

Key benefits of smart homes are that they can save homeowners energy and money, provide them with greater security and safety, enable them to make ‘smarter’ choices and ultimately, make their life easier.

Save homeowners energy and money
Smart devices can not only switch off appliances, but they can also monitor energy usage, allowing homeowners to stay informed of how much energy is being used day-to-day and what it is costing. Installing smart technology to monitor heating, water and electricity reduces the likelihood of homeowners receiving a larger bill than expected and aids homeowner education.

Provide homeowners with greater security and safety
With smart technology homeowners can secure their doors and windows at the click of a button, watch live streams of their home whilst away and be alerted to any unusual activity.

Make homeowners’ lives easier
Smart technology brings greater control to the homeowner, enabling homes to work around them, not the other way around. With smart technology homeowners can turn their pre-set heating off in the circumstance that last-minute plans crop up, they could unlock the door for a family member who has returned home earlier than expected, and they could also turn the lights on ready to welcome them home late in the evening. The best bit? They can do all of these without having to be in their home.

Educated homeowners make ‘smarter’ choices.
Smart technology is designed to make lives easier, but it also designed to make the homeowner more conscious of their actions, particularly when it comes to our countries carbon footprint. 

Home awareness is key to any installers tool kit, educated homeowners offer great upselling opportunities to installers and smart tech could get your foot in the door.

For example,

  1. Homeowner monitors their energy spend through their smart device that you installed.
  2. Homeowner realises their spend is too high.
  3. Homeowner looks to reduce energy bills.
  4. Homeowner looks for a more efficient/cost effective way to manage their energy.
  5. Homeowner looks at the product range you offered them on your first visit.
  6. Homeowner purchases combi-boiler or a solar assisted heat pump meaning that you earn return custom.

Top tip: Make sure you leave a good impression no matter how small the job, return custom and referrals are a major lead generator for most installers.

What are the major smart home systems?

With the growing popularity of smart homes, there are many systems to choose from. However, the current two major smart home systems are Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

How do homeowners get started with smart technology?

As with all areas of home improvement, most homeowners begin the process with research. They will be looking online and asking installers for product reviews, weighing up the pros and cons and looking for a ballpark figure for costs.

Therefore, your customer could ask you about smart technology and being educated could potentially pay off for you. Although not all smart home products require professional installation, educating yourself in all areas of smart technology enables you to advise your customer, whatever their question.

What are the benefits of smart homes to an installer?

Creating a smart home is not just installing an Amazon or Google system and asking it to play your favourite song, it is much more than that.

At their core ‘Smart Systems’ are designed to empower homeowners to become more informed, more secure and more aware which in turn creates opportunities for home improvement companies.

For example;

A homeowner who is more aware of their energy bill spend may seek renewable technology.
A homeowner who installs a smart doorbell, may seek a smart door.
A homeowner who installs a smart window/door sensor, may seek new windows and doors.
A homeowner who installs a smart meter, may seek a smart lighting system and thermostat.
A homeowner who installs a smart camera, may seek a full security system.

What smart technologies should installers be considering?

  1. Smart Doors
  2. Smart Lighting Systems
  3. Smart Sound Systems
  4. Smart Smoke Detectors
  5. Smart Doorbells
  6. Smart Security Systems

Top Tip: You could explore all smart technologies and package it up as a one-off installation, ‘Smart Home Package’, a package that would create an instant smart home.

How can installers get started with smart technology?

You’ve already taken an important step by reading our basic guide to smart technology. The next step is to prioritise staying informed. “But, how?” we hear you ask. There is more than one route to go down. Some installers will prefer to stay informed by investing in training, while others may prefer subscribing to newsletters and blogs or speaking with other installers and/or homeowners. Each is helpful and can keep installers in the know.

Staying informed ensures that you are in a perfect position to advise customers on the benefits, latest innovations and trends and associated costs when planning a smart home.

Below we have included some resources that you may find helpful should you wish to continue your smart home learning.

https://www.cediaeducation.com/courses/installer-courses

http://www.smarthomeacademy.co.uk/

https://smarthomesolver.com/

Combatting the Cowboy Conundrum

Cowboy installers have created a real problem for the industry. They have taken advantage of consumers’ trust and money and some of them have even put consumers’ lives at risk. It is no surprise that many installers face the challenge of generating new leads – if the consumer doesn’t trust their tradesman then they are never going to allow them into their home, are they?

Fighting off a bad reputation is never easy but there are steps you can take. Here are our top two.

First and foremost, become an accredited installer.

Look for a trustworthy scheme you can join that will offer your customers real consumer protection. Being able to offer your prospective customer a variety of benefits will help provide them with the trust, confidence and of peace mind often required to secure that sale or contract. Having reputable fall-back options is very important to them. Make sure you are vetted and accredited, you don’t want to join a scheme that accepts you just because you pay the membership fee.

When looking for a trustworthy scheme, it can be difficult to know which one to choose as each badge appears to offer ‘financial protection’ for you and your consumer. The real challenge is identifying which one offers real, trustworthy consumer protection. The market is vast and competitive.

Prior to looking for the scheme you want to join, ask yourself, ”what is good consumer protection?” and “how can I identify if a scheme is offering good consumer protection?” and then go from there.

Our answer to those questions? The devil is in the detail. We, at HICS, offer free deposit and stage payment protection, free IBGs and free mediation services not just for the fun of it, but because we know it resonates with consumers, we know it is important for them to have the peace of mind they deserve and we know it is the best offering in the market.  

Next, build your online reputation.

One way to do this is by securing positive reviews and recommendations. Seeing and/or hearing about how you finished a job on time, perfected it and had no hidden costs is music to a homeowner’s ears.

Often, if you have done a good job and impressed your customer, your customer will automatically leave you a positive review. However sometimes it is not as simple as that and your reviews are few and far between. If you find yourself stuck in the latter, be proactive and ask your customers if they would kindly leave a review for you and once received, make sure you reply with your thanks and/or comments.  

Additionally, if you become an accredited HICS member then you will have access to a membership pack which you can share with your customers at your leisure. This is another way to build your reputation as each piece of marketing material that you receive enables your customer to see that you are part of a trustworthy scheme, and they have lots of information to sift through should they wish to, prior to their installation.

Your trustworthy reputation alone should increase leads in no time.

How to Tackle the Rise in Tool Theft – Top Tips for Tradesmen

how to tackle tool theft

From having flexible working schedules to playing pranks on site, sometimes you think there is no better job than that of a tradesman. You can make a substantial amount of money, have fun and clock off early all on the same day. But, despite all the positives, unfortunately there are also plenty of negatives affecting tradesmen today.

In our three-part blog series, we will highlight the areas of concern and how tradesmen can avoid, or at least mitigate the impact of, these issues. Today, we’re honing in on tool theft.

There is a year on year rise in tool theft:

Statistics show that a van is broken into every 23 minutes.[1] Tool theft claims within the trade industry have cost over a staggering £2.8 million, with the average value claim being around £1,626.[1]

In 2014/15 there had been 14,063 thefts reported from vans which vastly increased to 23,859 in 2017/18, according to research by Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles via a Freedom of Information request This is a shocking 69.66% increase in just three years.

The statistics above may come as no surprise to tradesmen, especially if you have experienced tool theft yourself or know those that have. Instead we advise you to see the above information as a powerful reminder that tool theft is happening, and it is on the rise.

With tools being a substantial investment and imperative to carry out your work it is important to take some steps to protect them.

What do we recommend?

Make security your priority:

Improve your locks, fit an additional, more advanced alarm and make sure you unload the tools from your van every single night. You could even install tinted windows and add a ‘no tools are stored in this vehicle’ sticker on your van as additional security measures.

Take a look at Screwfix to see what van security accessories are available. They have a wide range of products and are a great place to start.

Tool insurance:

Your tools are essential to your work so insuring them is arguably one of the most important types of insurance you should get. Therefore, if you unfortunately find yourself victim to tool theft, your tools are covered. A good place to start when looking for tool insurance is GoCompare, just insert all of the information required and you will receive many different tool insurance quotes to sift through. Make sure you look into them properly to find out which is best suited to you, we all want to save money but with insurance it’s not always the best idea to go cheap.

Remember to keep your insurance up to date, too. You will have to renew this every year. Most insurers will send you an electronic reminder for this but it’s best to keep a note for yourself somewhere too.

Perfect your parking:

And no, we don’t mean parallel. If it is possible, always park where there is CCTV, if not, park in sight of others as this will likely scare off any thieves. You should also always try to park smart to prevent easy accessibility into your van e.g. with your back or side doors close to a wall, making them harder to open.

[1] https://phpionline.co.uk/feature-articles/online-exclusive-severe-van-tool-theft-uk/

Dealing with Late Payments – Top Tips for Tradesmen

late payments

Is there anything worse than finishing a job and not being paid on time? This is a serious problem in the industry and even worse for those who are self-employed. If employees at an organisation were paid days, weeks or even months late, there would be chaos. So why is it brushed off in the home improvement sector as normal?

Tips to avoid late payment:

 

Establish clear payment terms and deadlines before beginning the work

Make sure you state an exact due date for payment as opposed to ‘due in x number of weeks’. It is also a good idea to include a late payment policy. This combined will hopefully reiterate the importance of being paid on time to your customer. Whilst 60/90-day payment terms are common, don’t just follow the crowd, set payment terms to meet your cashflow. Pick a timeline that is suitable to you.

Additionally, why not explore the option of early payment incentives and late payment penalties?

Triple check your invoice

Have you missed something? If there is any missing information, then the customer may be waiting to hear from you rather than confronting you themselves. Click here to view a guide provided by Xero that walks you through the process of making an invoice – you can check that you haven’t missed off any of these steps and act accordingly if you have.

Make it easy for customers to pay

Everyone has a preferred method when it comes to paying, so have you thought about offering cheque payment and online payment? The customer has a choice then and no excuses.

Considering we now live in a digital world; a further consideration would be to explore the options of automation in invoicing and following up payments.

Three of the most popular accounting solutions are QuickBooks, Xero and Sage – check them out and see what could work best for you and your business.

Communicate regularly

We’re all human and most of us have a brain that’s working a mile a minute; meaning that important information sometimes slips our minds. To avoid this being your payment information that is forgotten, make sure you communicate regularly with your customer in the run up to their payment due date. You could do this by sending a friendly reminder in the week/s running up to the deadline date either by letter, email or even phone call, whichever way you normally work.

What to do if your payments are still being missed, despite doing all the above


Chase immediately

Make sure you call your customer when chasing payment. Some do not check their emails every day and for those who do, it is easy for them to leave your email unanswered.

Keep your cool

As difficult as it may be sometimes, keep your cool. Try to compose yourself before speaking with clients, no matter how frustrated you may feel. Doing so ensures you don’t damage the relationship with your client and/or your reputation. Payment is likely to be received quicker if you are polite as opposed to aggressive.

No matter how tempting this might be, trust us, it doesn’t end well.

Act

If persistence and politeness still isn’t budging your client, then it may be time to act. Not sure where to start? Take a look at the Government’s business support website; or call their helpline as a first resort. They are accessible Monday – Friday from 9am to 6pm on 0300 456 3565.

Finally, don’t forget that as a contractor you have a statutory right to claim interest from clients who don’t pay their bills on time, thanks to The Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act.