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HPM October 2012

INSIDEPLUMBCENTER WWW.HPMMAG.COM Got a story? Ring us on 01732 748041 or e-mail twood@unity-media.com Plumb Center: keen to go that Extra mile In the first of a new series of articles about Plumb Center, the company’s network manager, Christian Darby, explains what his job entails, what’s new and how he sees the arrival of the Green Deal... Tin and is now starting to make a real report, which helps us to identify ways in whichEvery month I sit down with each branchmore difficult for rogue traders to operate.manager and go through a detailed tradinghe network concept - branches in an areaworking together - at Plumb Center isabout 18 months old now, so it’s bedded difference. It was introduced to take a lot of the we can improve the service we give to customers. administrative burden away from branch Training is a big item in these discussions – managers, and free them up to spend more time both for staff and customers. This week, for helping customers – especially the small installer example, each of my branches is taking two businesses that are Plumb Center’s core customers to Mira’s training centre in customer. There are now 86 networks across the Wolverhampton, where they will learn the best country, which means that branches can easily ways to fit showers, and get to inspect the latest cover for each other, and pool resources such as product ranges. stocking and admin specialists. This in turn frees Trade mornings at branches are also very branch staff to deal with customers at the popular, where we team up with a major counter. manufacturer, lay on some breakfast for I joined Parts Center 11 years ago as a trainee, customers, and demonstrate new products. soon after leaving school. The first branch I Currently, demand for boilers is holding up, managed was in Digbeth, Birmingham, and I despite the current tough trading conditions, now manage the whole Birmingham branch with Worcester Bosch and Vaillant being the network. That’s eight Plumb Center and seven most popular brands. Parts Center branches – fortunately most are Historically, sales rocket at the end of co-located, which means I can see all the branch September, when the central heating season managers who report to me in a day, should the begins. We also sell a lot of fittings, plastics and need arise. We all get together at least once a drainage. Renewables has been a steady area for quarter, and I’ve got a very tight area – us in this patch, rather than spectacular, but it’s Birmingham, Solihull, Lichfield and Tamworth – Christian Darby can now be hands on with customers developing all the time. It’s definitely an area for so travelling is not an issue. growth, as installers get more knowledgeable, ball regarding customer service. We also service and get themselves qualified in the different CURRENT ECONOMIC CLIMATE our national contracts, but try to focus on local technologies. Perhaps because of the time I spent dealing with customers. parts, I’ve noticed over the past couple of years Of course, we always need to ensure that we’re GREEN DEAL OPEN DAYS that demand has increased for certain central competitive on price, but customers also value We’re fortunate to have Plumb Center’s heating spares – PCBs, gas valves and fan the advice our staff give, the prompt delivery that Sustainable Building Center on our head office assemblies in particular. In the current economic our distribution system provides – most items site not far away in Leamington Spa. Many of our climate, these particular components can often are available the next day – and things such as local customers took advantage of the Green extend a boiler’s operational life for a few years, the Extra customer reward scheme. Deal open days held there recently, to find out whereas when things are easier, people feel more The great thing about this particular scheme is what the Green Deal might mean for them. inclined to invest several hundred pounds in a its flexibility, and I’m keenly aware that each And it was also a useful experience for Plumb new boiler. customer is different. So the reward points Center staff, as many of our customers now ask Digbeth Parts Center is a big branch, and it accumulated can be used for training, us about it. It’s good that Plumb Center is taking was one of 25 branches across the country to Microgeneration Certification Scheme such a pro-active stance, and getting involved on become official Worcester, Bosch Group profile accreditation and Parts Arena Live, they can be several levels. It’s a name that people recognise stockists in 2008. This meant that we stocked the taken as M&S, Argos and Thomas Cook and trust, unlike some companies that have 100 most requested Worcester spares, and were vouchers, put towards things like toys, electrical sprung up recently on the back of the Green able to satisfy around 98% of customer goods or even a weekend break. Deal. requirements for Worcester products on the spot. We also put on Extra events all over the The Green Deal can only be good for business. Supplying customers across the West Midlands country, where customers can join us on things It’s not the answer to everything, but it’s one of conurbation, we doubled our sales of these items like trips to the races, fishing days, rounds of golf the things that will help, by unlocking demand. over 12 months. or theatre visits. And if none of these appeal, It should encourage people to replace old boilers I’m often to be found visiting my branches, points can be used to build credit on a rather than having them repaired, and at the and out meeting customers. It’s relatively easy for customer’s trade account. same time to go for energy efficiency products me, as I’m based at the Bromford branch, in the I’m proud that Plumb Center and Parts Center such as insulation, since the Green Deal should shadow of the M6 and Fort Dunlop. took the lead on gas safety by refusing to sell make paying for the work over a period of time However, managing such an urban patch safety-critical gas parts to people without a Gas relatively painless. means the competition is intense – customers Safe Register ID card. We’re supporting the have a choice of all the national companies, as legitimate professional tradesman, who form the well as independents, so we have to be on the vast majority of our customers, and making it enquiry number 122 30 OCTOBER 2012 HEATING & PLUMBING MONTHLY


HPM October 2012
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