Steve Ansell, Product Champion at BWT, lends his thoughts to the business opportunities with the changing attitude to water treatment.
During a financial crisis, consumers tend to cut back on those things that are not a necessity; these are often the jobs that help make the difference between a good year and an ordinary year for an Installer. The greater the range of services an Installer can offer, the easier it is to keep busy. Stepping outside of your zone is never easy and for many Installers the change from being reactive to proactive in the search for work is one more level of stress that most can do without.
Water treatment is a prime example, for some installers it already forms part of their arsenal of products and services they offer, but for many others it can be a bit of a dark art. In a market where consumers are seldom well informed, there is an incentive for Installers to learn more and provide a wide range of services. Adding water treatment to their portfolio of services can make a big difference in keeping the order book full.
When it comes to boilers there is no shortage of Manufacturer training courses and customers are already pretty well informed, they know they don’t like to be cold and most don’t like cold showers. For the Installer looking at water treatment, the options are more limited. Consumers are less well informed, water treatment is often seen as a luxury and training is not always readily available.
Luckily attitudes are changing; a glance around the trade press or the local trade counter will see new initiatives being launched like the Luxury Water™ programme from BWT. This type of initiative combines formal Installer training and a proactive approach to raising consumer awareness both locally and nationally. Steve Ansell the newly appointed Installers product Champion at BWT explains,
“Having been in the industry for over 20 years I have seen very little change, those Installers that embrace it [water treatment] make good money whilst those installers that leave it alone lose a vital edge when looking for work in more difficult times. My job is to support our Installers regardless of their experience whether from the end of a phone or face to face at one of our many formal training sessions”
With TV programmes that expose poor workmanship and a plethora of endorsement companies promising to put the customer in touch with a reputable tradesman, the Installer now more than ever needs to be able to demonstrate they are reliable, competent and well trained regardless of whether they are fitting a boiler or installing a water softener.
The needs of the Installer is changing too and whilst the price will always be important, proper training and access to creditable technical support is now as important to the professional installer as a product that works straight from the box. The attitude is well demonstrated by the number of professionals that are happy to join manufacturers Installer programmes to receive an enhanced level of support.
Steve, added “As a manufacturer, BWT recognise the importance of supporting the Installer in the field in the same way as many of the boiler companies do, and hence their investment in me as the Installer’s Product Champion. Hopefully our Installers will appreciate my no nonsense practical approach; my aim is to work with the Installer to solve any issues quickly so that they can move on to their next job”
Businesses and Installers working in the commercial sector are no strangers to the benefits of water treatment and in many organisations it is already part of their everyday life. Slowly, Consumers too are recognising that even good quality water can be made better. For some that may mean improving the taste whilst for others it could be simply making it better for the purpose they want to use it for. This shift in attitude provides an exceptional opportunity for Installers either to sell more or to take the first steps on to the water treatment ladder.
With more and more people gradually becoming aware of the benefits of water treatment, training has a vital role to play in helping Installers recognise the opportunities and providing them with the necessary tools and skills to help them broach the subject with their customers.
A perfect example is where the customer recognises or the Installer can demonstrate that water and lifestyle are often interlinked maybe as the result of installing a new bathroom or even a boiler repair. Steve explained, that introducing a water softener to the customer can be a daunting task for some Installers and so he recommends discussing the benefits with the customer first. Customers are normally quick to warm to this softer approach and recognise the lifestyle benefits a water softener can deliver around the home, from the luxury of bathing with softened water to the practical benefits that mean cleaning is easier and appliances last longer.
As the economic climate, becomes more stable some installers will simply revert to their core business. Others however will be keen to move on and develop their business adding water treatment to an existing portfolio of products and services; this is relatively easy and by taking the time to talk to someone like Steve that task can be made even simpler.
It is worth remembering that not all water treatment is a hard sell. Every Installer can help to change the attitude of the consumer by ensuring they explain the legal requirement and importance of fitting a scale reduction device prior to every boiler where the hardness of the feed water exceeds 200ppm. Once the issue of hard water and the effects it can have on a boiler are explained to the customer any future conversation regarding water treatment becomes easier and the opportunity for further business more likely. Steve’s final advice to Installers is choose your training carefully and ensure any training course you attend covers more than just product specifications, that way you can capitalise on this type of opportunity more easily when it presents itself.