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.

Business Interruption Insurance

Does standard business interruption insurance provide cover for businesses who are not able to operate due to the effects of Covid-19?

Business insurance policies are designed to cover standard risks and are therefore unlikely to provide cover for the effects of global pandemics like Covid-19. This includes forced closure by the authorities. Businesses may have chosen to purchase cover that will specifically provide for business interruption arising from notifiable or infectious diseases. For certain notifiable disease extensions, cover may apply if other policy conditions are met. However, this type of extension is not commonly included as standard. Furthermore, the likely costs to businesses of cover that includes more unusual risks – such as those posed by new diseases – would be prohibitive. Businesses who are concerned about the impacts of Covid-19 should check the scope of their cover with the insurance company or broker.

Does a ‘notifiable disease’ extension cover my business for Covid-19?

Most notifiable disease extensions tend to cover specific diseases that will be named in the cover. If Covid-19 is not specified, then cover may not apply. Some notifiable disease extensions are more general and do not specify certain diseases. In these cases, business interruption cover for Covid-19 may apply if it is present in the business. If you are unsure about what your policy covers, check with your broker or the insurer if you purchased it directly.

Are there any other extensions to business interruption that may provide cover?

Some coverage may exist if the business has purchased a ‘non-damage, denial of access’ extension to a business interruption policy. Again, purchase of these extensions tends to be rare and this is not generally covered under standard business interruption policies. Generally, ‘denial of access’ cover applies to cordoned off areas and loss of trade resulting from a denial of access to premises. If a business is forced to close or is told to close by an appropriate authority or is cordoned off, this could trigger a claim under a ‘non-damage, denial of access’ business interruption extension if the infectious disease cover is unspecified or if it includes Covid-19.

Here is some advice from HICS

Most businesses are unlikely to be covered, as standard policies are dependent on damage to property and will generally exclude pandemics. However, we strongly recommend businesses check to see if cover applies for Covid-19 and if so, the specific terms and conditions that apply. Insurance policies can differ significantly, so we’d encourage you to contact your broker or insurer who will be able to help.

If you do have insurance that covers Covid-19, your insurance company is likely to use a Loss Adjuster to represent them. We would strongly advise businesses who have cover in place, to access specialist advice in helping them to prepare, present and negotiate claims. At HICS, we can help with the claims process and can arrange access to a Loss Adjusting service, should you need independent advice regarding  complex, major or difficult claims.

To find out more about this specialist service, contact Scott Robinson our Commercial Director via s.robinson@qasss.co.uk

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

An Interview with Mass Foam Systems Limited

Recently we talked to HICS member, Mass Foam Systems Limited, about all things insulation. We found out their biggest achievement to date, what trends they have noticed regarding insulation and their predictions for the year ahead.

Introduce yourself – who is your company and what do you do?

We are Roy Dunn & Brian Massow, Directors of Mass Foam Systems. Mass Foam Systems is one of the UK’s largest installers of Icynene Spray Foam.

You’ve been a HICS member since August 2019, what made you join HICS?

We joined HICS to improve our customers’ confidence when having our market-leading insulation products installed.

So, Icynene spray foam insulation, what got you into it? Why spray foam?

We chose spray foam as we enjoy being able to sell a product that we have faith in that would really benefit UK homeowners by making their homes more energy efficient which in turn helps the environment and global warming.

Tell us an interesting fact why consumers should be considering Icynene spray foam insulation in their homes and/or insulation in general.

Customers can save up to 50% on heating and cooling costs every year. Icynene provides air sealing which prevents heat loss, therefore, saving you money.

What is your greatest company achievement to date?

We have been honoured to be able to assist Chessington Zoo with the insulation of their giraffe enclosure with Icynene Spray Foam. They wanted to insulate to increase warmth and comfort for their giraffes. We used an open-cell foam to insulate as it has no harmful chemicals, so it was safe to apply without harming the animals. We even got to meet the giraffes which was an experience we will never forget!

Have you noticed any trends regarding insulation recently?

UK homeowners are being driven to look at the insulation of their properties and EPC levels with a view to making their homes more energy efficient. Some are wanting an A-rated insulation product which will make their homes’ energy efficient whilst helping the environment and global warming.

What is your 2020 prediction for insulation?

We have seen massive growth in the first quarter of 2020 as open cell spray foam gains more popularity. We are expecting Mass Foam Systems to see one of our busiest years ever with our quality installs and our open-cell breathable products.

And last but not least, if you could invite any 3 people in the world to a dinner party – who would you invite?

  1. Prince Charles of Wales because of his passion for a sustainable future with regards to the environment and our future King of England.
  2. Greta Thunberg as she is our future generation with a passion for the environment and climate change.
  3. Kevin McCloud MBE for his knowledge of quality sustainable property design.

Photo from left to right: Roy Dunn and Brian Massow (Mass Foam).

Who is the Office for Product Safety and Standards?

Office for Product Safety and Standards

The Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) was established in January 2018 and forms part of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

What does the Office for Product Safety and Standards do?

OPSS oversees the regulatory system for product safety and standards in the UK. They aim to improve regulatory protections and support compliant businesses by working at the front line with businesses, local and national regulators and consumers.

How do they do this?

For consumers, the Office for Product Safety and Standards provides advice and information which will help them to avoid unsafe products. For businesses, they help them to comply with product safety regulations.

Publicly Available Specification (PAS 7100) “Supporting Better Product Recalls”

The Office for Product Safety and Standards sponsored PAS 7100, a linked code to assist businesses to monitor the safety of products and put a plan in place. PAS 7100 is designed to help businesses plan to deal with any potential product safety issues that might arise with products they have placed on the market or distributed. Recent campaigns from PAS 7100 have been around washing machine recalls and the safety of e-cigarette batteries.

What HICS think

“Consumer safety is incredibly important and it’s encouraging to see that this was recognised by the Government as a priority area for consumers. It’s a large area for businesses to navigate and consumers’ lives and health and safety could be at risk due to unsafe products so to have an agency to support and oversee product safety is very positive” comments Adrian Simpson, Director of Policy and Regulatory Affairs at HICS.

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Giving to Charity and What it Means for Tax

Often, businesses hold workplace activities to raise money for a charity close to their heart. This can be anything from marathons to bake offs to dress down days. But, as a company, do you know what giving to charity means regarding tax?

What is the tax relief?

If you’re a limited company and you give a monetary donation to charity, you will pay less corporation tax by deducting the value of your donations from your business profits. The most you can deduct is the amount that reduces your company’s profits to zero. You will need to keep records of this.

Exemptions

There are some important exemptions where payment won’t qualify if:

  • It’s in the form of a loan that will be repaid by the charity; or
  • The payment is on the condition that the charity buys property from your company or anyone connected to it; or
  • The payment is a distribution of company profits.

Also, if you, your company or anyone connected to your company receive any benefits in return for your donation (for example, tickets to a dinner event) there are limits imposed on the value of such rewards.

Donations by individuals, sole traders or partnerships

Donations can be made by individuals to charity or to community amateur sports clubs (CASCs). The tax goes to you or the charity. How this works depends on whether you donate:

  • through Gift Aid
  • straight from your wages or pension
  • through a Payroll Giving scheme
  • as land, property or shares
  • or in your will

This also applies to sole traders and partnerships.

So, in summary, if you’re a limited UK company and you donate to a registered charity with no direct benefit to the donor, then a corporation tax deduction will usually be permitted. For further reading on this, we recommend the gov.uk website.

Business photo created by snowing – www.freepik.com

Asbestos – Should I Worry?

It’s 2020, should you still worry about asbestos? In short, yes. Asbestos poses extreme dangers to those who are exposed to it and even though it is no longer used in practice, it is still around, and the exposure can be lethal.

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is not a single type of mineral; it is a group of six minerals made up of microscopic fibres. Asbestos was previously used in homes and buildings for insulation, roofing, flooring, and putty to seal windows or fill holes. It has been fully banned in the UK since 1999 due to the dangers it can cause to the human body.

What are the risks?

Breathing asbestos dust can cause serious damage to the lungs and cause cancer. There is no known cure for asbestos related diseases.

4 of the dangers of asbestos are:

  • Non-malignant pleural disease
  • Asbestosis
  • Asbestos-related lung cancer
  • Mesothelioma

Who is at risk?

Although asbestos is no longer used by installation companies, those homes that were built before 2000 still pose a risk. According to the HSE (Health & Safety Executive), asbestos still kills around 5,000 workers per year with 20 tradesmen dying each week as a result of past exposure. [1]

  • Installers are at risk if they have been exposed to asbestos for a long time whilst at work.
  • Those who live with an installer who has been exposed to asbestos may also be at risk.
  • Those living in a property with asbestos may be at risk if the materials are damaged or disturbed.

Once asbestos fibres are in the body, it is extremely difficult for the body to expel them.

Identifying asbestos

It is not sufficient to identify asbestos with a visual inspection or by comparing products you think may contain asbestos with photos that you can find online. It is advisable to have an asbestos survey conducted on a property or building to correctly identify asbestos.

Precautions to take

It is when asbestos-containing materials are damaged or disturbed that the asbestos fibres become dangerous. This is because they can be released into the air and then breathed into someone’s lungs.

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidance states that if there are any asbestos materials on site, these should have been identified before any work. If any hidden materials or dust are uncovered, that you suspect may contain asbestos, you must stop work immediately and seek advice.

Asbestos is still prevalent in homes and buildings and so it is advisable to carry out refresher training every year. There is a legal duty for employers in the industry to provide information and training for any of their employees that could be exposed to asbestos when carrying out work.

[1] https://www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/dangerous.htm

For further information and advice on asbestos, we recommend the HSE website.
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Are You Working at Height?

Working at height refers to work that holds a risk of a person becoming injured by falling, whether that is from a height or from ground level into an opening. However, it should be noted that this does not include a slip or trip on the level itself. Within the home improvement industry working at height is often unavoidable for installers, so, what do you need to know?

The Work at Height Regulations

The Work at Height Regulations were introduced in 2005 and apply to you if you are an employer or you control work at height. The regulations were put in place in order to prevent death and injury caused by a fall from height.

Should an accident occur, the individuals above would be liable if the equipment was faulty or uncertified. Therefore, employers and those in control of any work at height must ensure that all work is thoroughly planned and supervised and those undertaking the work are competent. The equipment used for jobs must also be properly inspected and maintained. To learn more about control measures to take, please see the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) official guidance here.

Working at Height Myths

There are many common ‘work at height’ myths [1]:

  • HSE has banned the use of ladders on building sites – no, this isn’t the case
  • You need to be formally ‘qualified’ before using a ladder at work – no, you don’t
  • I am working at height if I’m walking up and down a staircase at work – no, you are not
  • You need to have two feet and one hand on a stepladder at all times when carrying out a task – no, this isn’t true
  • HSE has banned the use of ladders to access scaffolds and you will be fined if you ignore this ban – no, this isn’t true

From 2014/15-2018/19 25% of fatal injuries to workers were from falls from a height [2], averaging at 36 fatal injuries per year. An average of 18 of these per year were in the construction sector.

Your Checklist:

  • Ensure you are aware and up to date with The Work at Height Regulations
  • Avoid making workers work at height where possible
  • Create awareness around the dangers of working at height and how to stay as safe as possible
  • Ensure that yourself and your employees have been on a working at height health and safety course
  • Check your insurance policy covers working at height

Working at height comes with many risks, so we advise that all installation companies ensure that jobs at height are undertaken as safely as possible. When it comes to safety, you can never be too careful or have too much information. HSE’s Working at Height website is recommended for further reading.

[1] https://www.hse.gov.uk/work-at-height/myths.htm

[2] Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR), 2014/15-2018/19

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Behind the Scenes: A Day in the Life of a Mediator

Impartiality is the fundamental requirement of a mediator; whose role consists of resolving a conflict between two parties who disagree. Their role is not to take sides but to reach a fair conclusion that both parties are happy with. Mediation and alternative dispute resolution (ADR) involve much more than appears on the surface so we’ve put together an outline of a typical day in the life of a mediator to show what happens behind the scenes.

A Typical Day as a Mediator

For a mediator working in the home improvement sector, their typical day begins early at 8.30 am and their daily schedule will usually include the following activities:

  • Setting realistic expectations – if a consumer has been left disadvantaged, their first point of call is often asking for compensation. Although this might provide an instant benefit to the consumer, it is not always the most appropriate solution. A mediator needs to find out the details from both parties and dig deeper to find out what the real problem is, not just what would provide instant gratification.
  • Communicating with opposing parties – communication is key in mediation and ultimately what the service is based upon. Mediators will spend many hours per day speaking with consumers that have made a complaint and the trader they are complaining about. Often a trader might not realise the stress that they have caused one of their customers and so mediators can communicate about the complaint calmly and factually.
  • Investigation – mediators need to investigate the claims being made to ensure that they fully understand the situation the consumer and the tradesperson are in so that they can begin the mediation process courteously, professionally and above all, quickly.
  • Resolving – the purpose of mediation is to resolve conflict and agree on a resolution with both parties and therefore a mediator will spend a lot of time reaching the right resolution. This is arguably one of the most satisfying parts of the role of a mediator, as they are often able to present a resolution that will satisfy both parties and eradicate the stress and strong emotions they may have been feeling before and during the process.

A Human Approach

Much like in other job roles, incorporating a human element into your work remains an important element. Although mediation isn’t based on relationship building between the mediator and the separate parties, it does help those involved to know they are being listened to, heard and respected in a human manner. If mediators approached conflicts robotically, mediation wouldn’t be as successful as it is.

A human element in conflict helps to create a safe environment for those involved and allows them to feel at ease, knowing that their complaint will be handled fairly and with compassion. Approaches like these are what help to create a speedy and successful resolution.

The proof is in the pudding – QASSS, who operate HIES, HICS and DGCOS, recent statistics boast a 98.4% complaint resolution rate with these being resolved in a matter of 3.59 days. [1]

HICS’s Mediators

The mediation team at HICS is made up of three dispute resolution officers who work hard to reach a fair resolution for all parties involved. They are a reliable, friendly and positive team. When asked what they love the most about being a mediator:

“The resolution stage is my favourite. Both parties can move on with their lives and forget about the issues that once caused them a huge burden. We never stop until we resolve their complaints (unless they go to the Ombudsman) but resolving them ourselves really is a great feeling.” – Cathryn Wolfenden, Dispute Resolution Officer.

“When you work in mediation, every day brings a new and exciting challenge. I love the satisfaction that I feel when I have resolved a complaint. It makes me ecstatic and want to do a little dance around the office!” – Tracy Dilworth, Dispute Resolution Officer.

“Resolving complaints is so rewarding because you know that you have lifted that huge burden from someone, allowing them to move forward with their life. We know that every case we receive is resolvable, so we aim to instil our passion and positivity into both parties and give them the peace of mind knowing that there is no stone left unturned.” – Charlotte Pilkington, Dispute Resolution Manager.

Find out more

If you want to find out more about mediation or HICS’s expert mediators, please get in touch by calling us on 0344 324 5242 or by filling out our contact form.

[1] Based on data from July 2019 – September 2019 for the DGCOS, HIES and HICS consumer protection schemes.

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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

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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/

Photo by John Tekeridis from Pexels

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.

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