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HPM February 2014

Got a story? Ring us on 01732 748041 or e-mail twood@unity-media.com SPECIALREPORT Making a splash in a diminished pool While the worst of the recession seems to be over, 2014 still looks set to be a challenging year for plumbing businesses, as they compete against a diminished pool of available work. As such, it is vital to utilise all means possible in order to stand-out from the crowd. WaterSafe’s Kevin Wellman advises... As we look forward, the good news is that we are set to see some sign of economic recovery. Against the backdrop of the ‘Help to Buy’ government scheme stimulating the housing market, the construction sector overall recently enjoyed its strongest growth for six years, according to the Markit/CIPS UK Construction PMI survey. Plus, this positivity looks set to continue. The most recent report by the Construction Products Association predicts growth of 2.2% in 2014 and 4.5% in 2015. Also, there are still a variety of major projects with, for example, the £2 billion Schools Priority programme and the Confederation of British Industry calling on the government to pay out £1.25 billion to build 50,000 new affordable homes. More so, as consumer confidence continues to increase, experts predict that the UK’s recovery will continue to gain pace this year, rising to 2.2%. Of course, this is very marginal progress but, nonetheless, indicates a significant step in the right direction. GOOD NEWS? So, what does this all mean for the plumbing industry? Despite all the seemingly good news, the unfortunate reality is that 2014 will not be without its challenges; yes, there will be slightly more opportunities out there, but as struggling businesses compete following years of stagnation, the competition will be fierce. As such, in order to take full advantage of the opportunities which do exist and deliver small growth in the coming year, it’s vital to have that determinable competitive edge. Here, it’s all about showing how your business is different from others out there; creating your own ‘Unique Selling Point’. It may sound obvious, but one easy - yet often overlooked - means of differentiating a business and, in turn, maximising your assets locally, is to fully promote your professional credentials. As we know, the difficult economy has encouraged WWW.HPMMAG.COM numerous rogue traders from all industries looking to profit from consumers seeking the lowest quote possible. A recent study by WaterSafe found nearly a quarter (23%) of homeowners have fallen victim to a rogue plumber, with the average cost to rectify the job averaging at a significant £426. To place the issue into national context, it is estimated that bodged plumbing jobs have cost the nation £2.6 billion over recent years. The result, it seems, has been plummeting consumer confidence in the industry. Of those fallen victim to a bodged plumbing job, 30% are left feeling angry, 22% frustrated, 21% furious and 20% upset. More so, a third of homeowners have been charged more than the original quote when employing a plumber and 80% don’t always trust their plumber do a good job. Of course, this is an unfortunate circumstance resulting from a small percentage of unethical traders who have had such a detrimental effect on a UK industry comprised of some of the most talented tradesmen. Previously, a key contributor has been that the plumbing industry has not had the presence of a scheme which encompasses all of the Approved Contractors’ Schemes in the UK. As such, it has been very difficult for consumers to make an informed choice when looking for a credible plumber - struggling to distinguish from the various industry associations, accreditation bodies and trust marks. This, in turn, has created a wide pool of opportunity for rogue operators to take advantage of consumers who are confused by the process of choosing a plumber. However, this is all set to change. PULLING THE PLUG Helping to pull the plug on rogue plumbers, the newly launched WaterSafe Installers’ scheme is a national register, accreditation body and online directory designed to negate the confusion for consumers and give the competent and approved plumbing businesses the recognition they deserve. By bringing together these existing schemes under one unique umbrella organisation, WaterSafe offers consumers assurance of getting a professional, 32 FEBRUARY 2014 HEATING & PLUMBING MONTHLY accredited plumber, every time. But, this is just the beginning. In order to effectively raise standards within the industry as a whole, a combined effort is required. Plumbing businesses must go that extra mile to promote their qualifications, not only to help consumers make the right choice, but also to maximise business opportunity. GETTING NOTICED A good starting point, naturally, is to join WaterSafe; the best bit being that it is completely free to join for all eligible members of the seven existing Approved Contractors’ Schemes. For no investment the return is endless, enabling approved plumbing businesses to get noticed online and on the job. Consumers, in turn, have access to a comprehensive hub of all the contractors working in the UK so they will know where to go to find a trusted name. If you are not a member of an approved contractor scheme, you would need to join to be eligible to be a member of WaterSafe. The cost of joining one of the approved contractors scheme varies. It’s also ideal for those specialising in a niche area. As part of the scheme, consumers can search for contractors by specialism and according to what type of work they need carrying out. With this function, the search facility will be able to point consumers straight to any area of specialism. Furthermore, a major benefit is better branding and consumer awareness. All WaterSafe contractors can display branding on their vehicles, company stationery and other professional materials. As the WaterSafe national brand profile increases with consumers - in an age where many are becoming increasingly wary - WaterSafe businesses will become associated with the trust, safety and unity around which the scheme is built. Times are changing. As economic recovery picks up, it offers a great opportunity to work together to refocus standards within the plumbing sector, stamp out rogue traders and, in turn, ensure that extra competitive edge. In this way, plumbers can be assured of making the biggest splash possible in a diminished pool of opportunity. enquiry number 122 WaterSafe is free to join


HPM February 2014
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