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How safe are you from cyber threats?

cyber threats

Do you truly know how safe your business is from cyber threats? The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has launched a Cyber Aware campaign which provides Government advice on how sole traders and micro businesses can stay secure online.

The latest phase of the Cyber Aware campaign has recently been launched and includes a self-assessment tool that will help sole traders and micro businesses by allowing them to check how safe they are from cyber threats. The tool also provides advice on any areas of improvement.

What tools are available?

Micro businesses with fewer than 10 employees and sole traders can download the following which will help them to navigate the digital world in a secure way:

The above action plan includes important information and advice on how to stay secure online. The recommendations that the Cyber Action Plan includes stem from the below steps:

  1. Use a strong and separate password for your email.
  2. Create strong passwords using 3 random words.
  3. Save your passwords in your browser.
  4. Turn on two-factor authentication.
  5. Update your devices and apps.
  6. Back up your data.

There are questions that sole traders and micro businesses can respond to in the Cyber Action Plan and those who do will receive tailored advice on how they can improve their cyber security.

Why do installers need to protect themselves from cyber crime?

A digital world has brought an increased use of emails, online payments and software on computers, but has also brought some risks. Reporting by Action Fraud revealed that between November 2019 and December 2020, the construction sector was in the top 3 sectors that is impacted by cyber crime where the victim was a business.

It is important that installers are aware of how to stay safe in a new digital climate so that they don’t find themselves as victims of cyber crime.

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Exclusive product safety seminar for members

dgcos hies hics webinar

Consumer protection organisations HICS, DGCOS, and HIES, are holding a member exclusive seminar on product compliance with the Office for Product Safety Standards and West Yorkshire Trading Standards.

The seminar will focus on product safety with a strong emphasis on importing. It will cover:

  • Who is an importer?
  • What must importers do to comply?
  • Who can help importers?
  • Who are the bodies involved?
  • Product safety basics
  • Primary Authority

Importers have a lot more liabilities ensuring that a product is safe and that it complies with applicable laws and standards. From next year importers in England, Wales and Scotland will need to place the UK conformity assessment logo (UKCA) onto goods placed onto the market.

Adrian Simpson, Director of Policy and Regulatory Affairs at DGCOS, HICS, and HIES, comments:

“From next year installers obligations will be changed. Many installers may become ‘importers’ which means they will need to be aware of the law regarding importation and product safety. We want our members to be prepared for the changes so are pleased to provide this exclusive training session with the experts.”

Michael Kearney, Head of Business Engagement at the Office for Product Safety and Standards, comments:

“The Office for Product Safety and Standards is developing a trusted product safety system that delivers protection for consumers, fairness for business and a competitive marketplace defined by outcomes of safety and public confidence. To achieve this, it is important that we raise awareness and provide support across the supply chain and particularly in new, innovative and growing market sectors.”

The seminar is free and will be held remotely on Tuesday 9th March, 10am – 11am.

HICS members who are interested should email communications@hicsscheme.org.uk to register their interest.

COVID-19 lockdown guide for installers

We have produced this guide to help installers navigate their way through the current lockdown.

The guide includes information on:

  • If tradespeople in England and Wales can work
  • How to protect yourself, your staff, and your customers
  • Working in consumer’s homes
  • Social distancing
  • Keeping work areas clean
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and face coverings
  • Useful links

To download your copy today, please click here.

New regulator for construction products

new regulator construction

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has announced the launch of a new regulator that ensures materials used to build homes will be safer.

The launch follows the Hackitt review which came after the Grenfell tragedy and the Building Safety Bill that was published in Summer 2020. The Bill “set out the biggest reforms to building safety regulation for a generation, and included provisions to strengthen and extend the scope of the powers available to government to regulate construction products.”

This new regulator will have the power to remove any product from the market that presents a significant safety risk and prosecute any companies who do not follow the rules on product safety.

Currently, market surveillance and enforcement of construction products safety is the responsibility of under-funded local authority trading standards services. Trading standards services saw budget cuts of around 60% between 2010 and 2018 meaning that construction products are unlikely to be a priority in each of the 200 plus trading standards services. Although general product safety is a priority within trading standards, it is a wide portfolio consisting of toys, electrical products, and cosmetics amongst other areas.

Regulated construction products

All installers will use regulated construction products.

These regulated construction products are defined in law as “any product or kit which is produced and placed on the market for incorporation in a permanent manner in construction works or parts thereof and the performance of which has an effect on the performance of the construction works with respect to the basic requirements for construction works”.

Examples of construction products include doors, windows, shutters and gates, membranes, and thermal insulation products.

Does the new regulator for construction products impact installers?

Installers have always had to supply goods that are safe and comply with the existing rules and regulations around construction products. This means that there is unlikely to be any change to the way installers currently need to operate.

However, later this year new rules will come in around CE marking with the move towards a new UK Conformity Assessment (UKCA) mark in place of the CE mark.

HIES, DGCOS and HICS have secured expert training on the UKCA which will be offered to members of all schemes later this year.

Adrian Simpson, Director of Policy and Affairs at HIES, HICS, and DGCOS, comments:

“In these times of Government austerity and de-regulation, a new regulator is a surprising, but a welcome addition to the building and construction safety family. With £10m allocated towards this new regulator it will be interesting to see how this new regulator will work alongside trading standards services.

The regulator comes at a time when product safety is in focus. With the vast majority of product safety derived from European Union legislation, the move towards the UK deciding its own product safety priorities has begun and with Grenfell still in our thoughts, construction products seem to be the right place to start.”

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Faisal Hussain joins HICS as New Chief Executive

Consumer protection scheme, HICS, welcomes new Chief Executive, Faisal Hussain. Faisal will be working with the HICS team to ensure consumers continue to be protected and to support HICS members in delivering excellent customer service and winning more business.

Faisal brings in-depth knowledge and experience in home improvement as well as having many years’ experience in marketing, project management, and research and development. Faisal is also a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and a member of various industry working groups. 

Faisal Hussain, HICS Chief Executive, comments:

“Thank you to everyone for a warm welcome and it’s great to be part of an organisation whose philosophy is about raising standards. 

We have a fantastic team who are committed to providing an excellent service to both consumers and members. I am looking forward to driving our ethos of consumer protection and supporting members in these uncertain times.”

HICS is a leading consumer protection organisation that covers the installation of a wide range of home improvement products. The consumer protection organisation has a trusted network of UK-based home improvement installers. When a homeowner uses one of these members, the homeowner will receive thorough consumer protection upon registration of their installation.

The protection that homeowners will receive is completely free to the consumer and they will get access to Alternative Dispute Resolution, access to a consumer advice line, access to an Independent Ombudsman, Deposit & Stage Payment Protection Insurance, and an Insurance Backed Guarantee (upon completion of the contract).

HICS is endorsed by architect and TV presenter, George Clarke, who works with HICS to ensure that consumers are respected, protected, and educated on their home improvement journey.

Tool theft is costing installers over £5.5k

A recent survey by Honcho insurance reveals that tool theft from vans is costing businesses an average of £5,584 with 89% saying that their van insurance didn’t cover the full cost of replacement.

And tool thefts are on the increase. A tradesperson’s van is broken into on average every 20 minutes in the UK and the financial impact is not just on the cost of replacing tools but being unable to work is costing installers an additional £5,892 in missed work. Not only that, but installers can also face negative reviews from customers and suffer reputational damage as a result of not being able to carry out work booked in.

If you live in London, Birmingham or Sheffield, you are most at risk according to another survey by Simply Business, which revealed the main hotspots for van break-ins.

Tools can be a substantial investment so what can you do to protect your van, tools and work?

Security

Fit additional security to your van, whether improved locks, upgrading your alarm, dash cams that can record both in and outside your van, using grills and/or tints, or even investing in a separate safe for inside your van. Also, make sure you take your tools or ladders in with you at the end of the day, even if you have overnight cover.

Tool insurance

Ensure you have the right level of tool insurance that covers the full replacement cost. Tool insurance can be bought separately or usually, you can add it to your business insurance. Remember, not all insurance covers tools left overnight. Make sure you also check the excess.

If you own your van, make sure you notify your insurance provider of additional security features. If you are leasing a van, make sure you check with the leasing company before adding any additional security measures.

Parking

Make sure you park in a safe location that is well lit and visible to others, preferably in an area with CCTV. Also, park smart to prevent thieves from accessing rear and side doors and make sure you take your tools in with you at the end of the day, even if you have overnight cover.

Keep records and mark your property

Marking your tools and business equipment is a must so that if the police do find your van or tools, you can instantly prove they are yours. It is also recommended to keep a note of serial numbers and take regular pictures of the inside of your van, so you have proof for any claims.

 

Source:

https://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/every-20-minutes-tools-are-stolen-from-a-van

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Could a strong online presence generate leads just as well as word of mouth?

strong online presence

Word of mouth marketing has been around since the beginning of time and we all know that it’s a great way to generate leads for free. Research proves it. 72% of people get news from friends and family, making word of mouth the most popular channel for sharing [1].

Word of mouth marketing has evolved over time and now it doesn’t rely solely on having a conversation with your peers, but also on social media and review sites. In the new digital age, there are influencers recommending businesses on Instagram, people who you may follow whose tweets go viral about their experience with a company, and people giving company recommendations in Facebook groups.

However, how does word of mouth marketing compare to having a strong online presence? By online presence we mean a modern, user-friendly website, active social media channels (from Facebook through to LinkedIn), videos, user generated content (UGC) and actively generating authentic and positive reviews, for example.

With a wealth of digital marketing tools at our fingertips, is word of mouth still the #1 contender, or has digital marketing replaced it? It’s a tricky question to answer and that’s why we advise maximising both to increase awareness, attract and secure new leads and increase retention and repeat purchases.

By utilising the right digital marketing channels for your sector, you can get ahead of your competitors. Most companies will receive some form of word of mouth marketing but not all companies have a strong online presence to back it up. You can reach more customers online and collect visible online reviews and testimonials to help build trust and personal recommendations on groups and chat which will lead to increased enquiries and conversions.

How you can best use digital marketing to increase your online presence

There are many ways to increase your brand reputation online and attract potential customers but here are our top 5 tips:

  1. People generally trust other people more than they trust a brand themselves
    This is where the importance of good customer reviews comes in. If you know a customer is really pleased with the service you have provided, ask them to leave an online review, whether on Facebook, Google My Business listing, or on reviews sites such as TrustPilot. 91% of consumers say that reading a positive review makes them more likely to use a business. [2] Facebook also has a specific tool that lets its users ask for recommendations.

 

  1. Make sure your website is searchable and user friendly (particularly for mobile search)
    Many customers search online for local and reputable companies and will check out your website before contacting you and/or giving you the job. Your website needs to be SEO friendly so people can find you and also user-friendly in terms of navigation, information and calls to action to help you stand out from the competition.

 

  1. Create extra value for your customers
    Having a website is great and although most tradespeople have websites, not all tradespeople have a website blog. You can create extra value for your customers by having a blog and writing informative and educational content that will help your customers.

 

  1. Ensure you have a social media presence
    Having a website is a good start however having social media is now a necessity in the digital age, given that there are over 3.2 billion people on social media globally. [3] Social media not only enhances your reach, but it is also great for showcasing individual jobs, your brand, your personality as well as enhancing credibility and connecting with the wider industry.

 

  1. Stay active online and stay on your customers’ radar
    If you have set up social media profiles, it is important to stay active on these. People value consistent communication so make sure you’re posting a variety of content formats at least every few days to keep your audience engaged. It also helps you increase your business reputation online as well as driving traffic to your website.

There are also many other ways to help build your brand online, but these are our top five starting points. If you have any questions about any of this, or would simply like some advice or assistance, please contact us either by phone on 0333 323 2655 or by email at info@hicsscheme.org.uk where our team will be happy to help you.

[1] Pew Research Center

[2] https://www.brightlocal.com/research/local-consumer-review-survey/#influence-of-reviews

[3] https://www.hubspot.com/marketing-statistics  

Homeowners in Britain could spend up to £5bn on their homes before Christmas

Homeowners in Britain could spend £4.94 billion before Christmas purely on improvements to their homes and gardens according to research by market research company, Kantar.

Despite the many home improvements that have been made since March this year, homeowners are still saying that they have work to do, of which 60% of respondents revealed they plan to paint their home and 37% planning on fixing or building furniture.

Strategic insight Director at Kantar, Joanna Parman, said:

“The DIY season normally runs from spring until October half term to coincide with warmer weather and longer days. But this is no normal year and, as restrictions tighten again, 25% of respondents are planning additional tasks before the end of October. A larger 34% intend to complete jobs before Christmas. If shoppers follow through with their plans, it will mean an additional £552 million is spent on DIY between September and December compared with last year – including an extra £124 million on garden work and £119 million on homeware items.”

Although the research somewhat speaks for the DIY sector this still provides positive insights for the home improvement and renewable energy sector for those who wish to look to professionals as opposed to DIY. The research also revealed that younger people are more likely to rely solely on tradespeople in the future.

If consumers are planning to bring in the professionals, we would always recommend they use an accredited member of a consumer protection scheme such as the Double Glazing and Conservatory Scheme (DGCOS) or the Home Improvement Consumer Protection Scheme (HICS) or consumer code the Home Insulation and Energy Systems Quality Assured Scheme (HIES).

Adrian Simpson, Director of Policy and Regulatory Affairs at DGCOS, HICS and HIES, commented:

“Using a trade member of DGCOS, HIES or HICS ensures that consumers are dealing with vetted and accredited tradespeople. Should things go wrong, we can help resolve any problems with access to quality insurance-backed guarantees, industry-leading dispute resolution and free access to an Ombudsman.”

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Green Homes Grant Scheme: Installer Survey Results

With the Green Homes Grant Scheme now in full force we were keen to find out the thoughts and experiences of those in the industry. The scheme was launched to help the industry bounce back after the coronavirus crisis and help homeowners create more sustainable homes whilst lowering their energy bills. The scheme is well underway after launching last month, so, let’s get into the results and feedback on the scheme overall from installers.

The scheme itself

Just over half of respondents (56.3%) thought the scheme was good for the industry.

Some of the reasons behind those who thought the scheme was good included:

“Helping to grow the renewable industry and lower carbon emissions.”

“It is raising the awareness of a wider group of people to the advantages of Green products, therefore expanding the opportunities to create more jobs especially in the current climate of uncertainty of many occupations.”

“Creation of employment opportunities as well as a boost to business after COVID”

And for those who didn’t the scheme was a good idea, some of the explanations were:

“The scheme is kidnapped by large companies with hard sell techniques to create no competition sales and rip the customer off as they are getting a grant towards the cost so can massively inflate the prices. There is no chance of the consumer getting fair, sensible advice and prices from smaller companies to ensure the quality of the installations is maintained.”

“Encouraging lots of time wasters, people wanting something for free, encouraging bad installs and mis-selling.”

“Limited in scope.”

Timing of the scheme

When asked whether installers would like the scheme to continue past March 2021, the majority (68.8%) voted yes.

Installer guidance and accreditation

Installer Guidance

The majority believed that the installer guidance provided around the Green Homes Grant Scheme has not been sufficient at 87.5%.

When asked to elaborate, some of the reasons behind this were:

“Because it took too long to publish company requirements, I have TrustMark but no PAS2030, this was not clear. Now I have to wait 2 months because of the backlog and as usual, this scheme will be exploited as it already is with companies’ piggy backing off others that have all the measures. It’s ridiculous and not thought through even after all the other schemes were a disaster for installers.”

“Everything is too short notice and too tight on timescale. The timescale also wouldn’t be so tight if the information had been available prior to grants opening. The limited information was too vague. Reflects badly on installers and then becomes a rush and more likely to cause problems with installation and supply.”

“It was not issued early enough so that the terms and conditions could be read, resulting in lots of enquiries and quotes to no avail.”

“Encouraging lots of time wasters, people wanting something for free, encouraging bad installs and mis-selling. Any decent installers are busy anyway we don’t need people phoning just to get their third quote, dealing with the enquires is consuming all our time for little if no reward. The fact that we are having to bank roll these installs until we are refunded realistically, we could only install 2 systems. Extend the RHI and ditch this ridiculous scheme.

The process of becoming accredited

Feedback also revealed a 50:50 split on how easy (or not) installers found the accreditation process, and out of those, over 18% thought the process was expensive.

Scheme Operators

The survey revealed that installers used a range of TrustMark scheme operators such as HIES, NAPIT, NICEIC and RECC, with 62.5% happy with the support provided.

Customer – demand and guidance

Customer demand for work

The survey revealed that 50% of installers were currently struggling with capacity for work under the Green Home Grants Scheme. 25% were ‘very busy’ leaving just 25% ‘quiet’ or with ‘no enquiries at all’.

“We can’t manage enquiries and that seems to be an issue with customers saying that they can’t find anyone to get a quote. Need more suppliers and more time to do the work.”

Customer information

The majority of customers have had difficulty with the Green Homes Grant Scheme – 56.3% experienced difficulty around applying for the scheme and 43.8% found it difficult to get information about the scheme.

Job creation

One of the driving reasons behind launching the scheme alongside environmental targets was to also create more jobs within the industry. However, only 25% of those surveyed have to date employed more staff as a result of the scheme.

“As to the question are we employing more staff this may be an option as we are certainly getting lots of enquires, however, it is not so easy to get competent qualified staff.”

Scheme Measures

The measures or combination of measures installers thought were in most demand were:

  1. Air source heat pumps (56.3%)
  2. Solar thermal (56.3%)
  3. Insulation (31.3%)
  4. Glazing (25%)
  5. Ground source heat pumps (25%)
  6. Heating controls (6.3%)
  7. Draught-proofing (0%)

Additional comments from installers

“Companies like mine that have been operating competently installing thousands of properties, having achieved Trustmark, installing a BBA approved product, FCA regulated, Checkatrade and TrustPilot reviews open for investigation should not have to spend thousands more to install under this scheme. Why are only 1000 companies onboard across all products, because companies can’t be bothered with all the red tape.”

“Consumer needs more to be able to tap into local approved tradesman and companies who have a good Trustmark review and are members of a recognised trade association and allow these installers to be considered so the work done is of a high quality with a professional back up service.”

“Good plan with bad planning. The scheme rules should have been released before the scheme opened. For consumers and installers.”

“As a secondary measure installer, the time scale was not long enough the ensure that we would get paid. Not enough guarantee for the installer when primary measures had to be completed and redeemed. We would not want to start an install if the primary measure meant we could not complete in time but the customer would not pay us if that was to happen.”

“The scheme prevents compliance with MCS rules but seemingly nobody has picked this up yet.”

“Limited in scope – would be better if included solar PV to promote the government’s own objectives.”

“I think the RHI is enough and allowing cowboys to install heat pumps on low income properties is a mistake.”

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Latest data shows complaint volumes remain high in the home improvement sector

Latest data shows that Citizens Advice dealt with over 32,000 consumer issues and complaints relating to the home improvement sector over the last 12 months to September 2020.

What is also disappointing for the sector is that out of all defined categories in consumer goods and services, ‘building repairs and improvements’ came second with over 8,500 issues alone. Top was practical energy efficiency advice with over 9,000 issues.

The statistics also show the most complained about issues within the building repairs and improvements category. We have put together the top 5 by volume, with complaints and redress being accountable for nearly 5,000 complaints and faulty, dangerous, and unsafe services received over 2,000 complaints from October 2019 to September 2020. 

Being an accredited member of a reputable home improvement consumer protection scheme, such as HICS, not only helps increase conversion rates but shows a commitment by the firm to providing customers with trust, confidence and peace of mind before, during and after their installation.

HICS members, and their customers, receive FREE award-winning alternative dispute resolution. With an average resolution time of just 3.59 days, HICS helps members save time, money and improve reputation. As a part of your membership you will also get FREE Ombudsman access and FREE independent inspections.

Source: https://public.tableau.com/profile/citizensadvice#!/vizhome/AdviceTrendsSeptember2020/Cover

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