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ost small businesses will receive complaints at one stage or another. But it’s how you deal with them that matters. John Thompson, chief

executive of the Association of Plumbing & Heating Contractors (APHC) discusses. Most complaints are due to a breakdown in

communication or unrealistic expectations, but these can usually be rectified without both parties undergoing a formal complaints procedure. Complaints will usually be genuine issues from


upset or disappointed customers. In the main they aren’t trying to make trouble for you – they’re letting you know that your business has made a mistake. That is unless you come across the rogue customer who perhaps raises unrealistic complaints with a view to seeking some form of compensation. The most successful, customer-focused companies embrace complaints.

ltecnic has joined forces with Amber Heating to install a heat network system running off a ground source heat pump for Brewham lodge in North Brewhan, Somerset.

Brewham Lodge is a small estate consisting of one main house, which

dates back to the 17th Century, and three 150-year-old cottages, together with several barns.

The cottages were modernised 15 years ago but have been running on oil-

fired heating – a costly heating solution with negative environmental impact. Amber Heating approached Altecnic to advise, design and develop a system

that would meet the requirements of residents and provide a high quality, reliable and energy efficient solution appropriate for 21st Century living. The original concept was to integrate domestic hot water (DHW) storage

within the network. In the majority of cases, DHW storage has negative effects on the efficiency of a heat network. Altecnic recommended the removing of the DHW storage and showed that the DHW requirements could be met by the SATK20307 HIU, that has been specifically designed for heat pump led networks with low primary flow temperatures. Altecnic calculated the typical flow and return temperatures that could be

achieved and showed the benefits of instantaneous DHW generation over a more traditional stored DHW solution. As a ground source heat pump installer, this was the first time Amber Heating had used HIUs and therefore benefited from Altecnic’s advice and expertise throughout the project. Altecnic also provided its Heat Network Bypass control modules to minimise bypass flow and increase network efficiency at times of low demand. The solution resulted in a number of benefits. The HIUs installed provide

instantaneous domestic hot water and control the space heating, whilst taking up minimal space within the cottages. Now that the network is operational, the fuel saving versus the old oil heating is considerable as well as the subsequent reduction in the buildings operational carbon footprint. Previously it was costing around £1,200 a year in fuel per cottage. Now the savings are so great at £920.77 a year that tenants aren’t being asked to pay anything by the landlord. Bob Roddy, managing director of Amber Heating said: “As ground source

heat pump specialists, we were new to the world of HIUs but wanted to provide a more efficient approach than stored hot water. “We hadn’t worked with Altecnic before, but the team offered excellent

specialist advice from the start and were able to provide the high quality and efficient systems we needed to deliver the best solution. “Using the latest heating technology in such old buildings shows that it’s not just a solution for new builds.”

That’s because complaints are unsolicited feedback. A complaint is raw, direct interaction from a customer and it’s often beneficial to treat it as a valuable source of information about your business. If you can resolve a problem, you’ll also be resolving the problem for other

customers, or even preventing future customers from encountering the same problem. And, if the need arises taking on board the outcomes of the complaint and fine tuning your business processes can sometimes lead to savings in time and money. So what do we do at APHC when complaints are raised directly with us against a member company? APHC conciliation The first stage is that the complaint must have been considered by

the member company as part of its own internal complaints process. If a resolution cannot be reached then we can look to conciliate between both parties from there. In looking at complaints we adopt an unbiased approach to the process on

a similar basis to the way in which a legal case may be reviewed in the small claims court. The aim is to negotiate a solution to the complaint that will be acceptable to both parties – this can often be challenging as the customer / installer relationship may be under severe strain prior to our involvement. If a complaint has progressed, then a good deal of time and effort will no doubt have been put into presenting the installer case. Here, it is probably worth reflecting on some of the issues that we see in terms of trying to head-off complaints from happening in the first place - 1/ A minor problem that escalates e.g. missed appointments which sets the scene for a range of complaint issues to escalate. 2/ A disagreement over the tender for the job – one of the most common areas of complaint relates to dispute over what work is included within a quotation. Here it’s worth spending some time when producing quotations to specifically detail those items that are not included in the work. 3/ A technical deficiency with the installation – it goes without saying that mistakes do happen from time to time and need to be resolved ASAP. 4/ Closure to a complaint investigated – even if you don’t agree with the complaints being raised by your customer there’s a need to formally feedback to them on this and close out the complaint.

April 2021


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