24 HPM 0813

HPM August 2013

WWW.HPMMAG.COM Got a story? Ring us on 01732 748041 or e-mail twood@unity-media.com INSIDEPLUMBCENTER Get web-savvy and enjoy the benefits We live in a digital age where the internet and Smartphones are used by millions every single day. HPM spoke to Plumb Center and Parts Center’s head of e-commerce, Rachel See, to find out how installers can benefit... It’s hard to remember a time before the internet. Nowadays if you’re on a train, in a pub or even doing a bit of shopping, you’ll most likely see people tapping on their phone or clicking on their laptop or tablet. We’ve come a long way since the dial-up days when you got that shrill noise every time you connected to the net, it took a calendar month to download a page and you couldn’t use the phone when you did. Now that’s all changed as super-fast broadband and mobile internet have allowed people easy access to the web whether they’re at home or on the go, and more and more installers are running their businesses online. “Being an installer is not a nine-to-five job,” said Rachel. “Not many of our customers spend their day at a desk in the office. They’re out and about, travelling the country and working all hours to provide the best service they possibly can. Previously this meant they couldn’t access emails or use the internet during their working day, and they could have been missing out on business. “We’ve done a lot of research into how to improve our service, and we’re finding that our customers are getting a lot more web-savvy. Installer businesses have websites, Twitter feeds, Facebook pages and even blogs; anything which gives them an edge on the competition. TABLET COMPUTERS “One of the main things we discovered is our customers are using Smartphones and tablet computers when they’re on the road. It means they can check emails, look for products, place orders and find directions to their jobs, all from the comfort of their van.” Rachael added: “We’re making it easier for these guys by creating websites that have been designed specifically for use on mobile devices, and apps that installers can download straight to their Smartphone or tablet. “The new mobile offering is the result of two years’ extensive collaboration and testing across the business, with our customers, web team and branch staff, and is a new way for installers to get access to the wide range of services they’ve come to expect from Plumb and Parts.” There’s a lot of jargon when it comes to the internet nowadays, so Rachel was asked what exactly is the difference between an app and a mobile site? “They aren’t the same thing, but they’re quite similar,” she said. “Our websites can be accessed on your computer like normal, but we’ve designed them so you can access them on your mobile device and they’ll work just as well. “Apps can be downloaded straight to your phone or tablet so you can use them at any time. There’s no need to open your web browser and type the address in, you just tap and go.” The Plumb and Parts’ apps have been on iTunes since last year, but they’re now available from the Google Play app store for Android users. “We’ve just launched the Android apps,” said Rachel. “Not everyone has an iPhone and we thought it was important to offer the apps to all of our customers. Now you can download them if you have an HTC, LG, Samsung, or any device which uses the Android operating system, so we’re covering all the bases.” The apps and mobile sites offer a range of features to installers. Users can register online, access up-to-the-minute stock information and images for products, check their prices and reserve them for collection from their preferred branch. So they can even shop when their branch is closed. “It’s all about making life easier for our customers in whatever way we can. Now they can see product specs wherever they are, which is much easier than physically going into the branch,” added Rachael. “Customers can also log in and then check their terms, see outstanding invoices and credit, and view their order history, which is really handy for installers who don’t have time to waste flicking through pieces of paper during the day.” Another popular feature is the ‘Branch Finder’. Installers can cover thousands of miles driving Customers are using Smartphones and tablet computers when they are on the road up and down the country to visit customers, so knowing how close they are to a branch, and the products they need, is a big advantage. “We’ve all been there. You’re driving around an area you don’t know, it all looks the same and you’ve got no idea where you are,” said Rachel. “Now you can get your phone out and tap on the ‘Branch Finder’ button which will give you directions to the nearest branch. “There’s also special offers available, and links to all the latest industry news, so we’re really offering a complete online package. This is just the starting point, we’ll be designing more services and features specifically for the installer on the move.” For installers, the proof of the pudding is always going to be in the eating, so Paul Ayres, owner of Hertfordshire-based plumbing, heating and property service company PJA Group, was asked what he thought of the online initiative. “I’m a big fan of the apps, they’re definitely a benefit to my business,” said Paul. “Eight of my guys have downloaded them to their Smartphones and they’re really useful. “It’s handy for the team to get specs up when they’re on the job. They can get the prices of the products there and then, and confirm it with the clients just by showing them the phone.” *To download the apps, search for ‘Plumb Center’ or ‘Parts Center’ in iTunes or Google Play, or go to www.plumbcenter.co.uk and www.partscenter.co.uk on your devices to access the mobile sites. 24 AUGUST 2013 HEATING & PLUMBING MONTHLY enquiry number 118


HPM August 2013
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