Phil Birchenough, Product Manager at Sime Ltd, shares his experiences and thoughts about how customers are often scared to engage with their boilers.

Considering it’s one of the most expensive white appliances in the house, the domestic boiler remains a mystery for too many people.   I have had a few conversations with customers recently where they’ve expressed fear and concern about whether they should ‘tamper’ with their boiler settings. On one occasion, they were worried about changing the water temperature, using the buttons on the control panel of their boiler.   While we may be concerned whether the Gas Safe messages about using a qualified, registered heating engineer to perform boiler repairs are getting through, for lots of consumers, it’s got through almost too much!

It seems that for those concerned consumers, boiler adjustment is a dangerous activity that can only be undertaken by a Gas Safe registered installer.  Of course, there is a huge amount of truth in that statement and, yes, as a gas appliance, a boiler should be treated with a degree of caution, but it shouldn’t be an appliance to fear.  This wonderful box makes a home an inviting and cosy living environment; making adjustments to it, by its owner, should be seen as just as simple and accessible as any other home appliance.  It seems that people don’t have the same level of understanding about the controls of their boiler as they do for other appliances around the home.  I did say to the lady in question, “If manufacturers didn’t want homeowners to adjust things on their boilers themselves, they wouldn’t put control panels on the front of them!”

As a former installer, I have found myself wondering if there is more that installers could do to make their customers feel more in control?  Do installers need to spend more time with customers after installations and/or services and take the time to explain both the basic controls and settings, as well as standard simple adjustments they can make in response to certain error codes?

For example, homeowners should feel competent to top up or reduce the water pressure on their boiler and are both things that installers can show users how to do themselves.  This may seem like a suggestion that isn’t in an installer’s favour, as it reduces the need for a call out, but taking a long-term view, it actually makes sound business sense.  This two-way communication between installer and homeowner builds customer trust and helps to place the installer as an invaluable expert service provider.  Making customers feel that you are going the extra mile never fails to generate repeat custom and encourages word-of-mouth referrals, which is never a bad thing!

Before anyone gets too excited, I am not, of course, advocating that end-users attempt to undertake all boiler repairs themselves; that would be foolhardy and dangerous.  Yet some error codes require very simple adjustments that homeowners should be able to make for themselves, instead of having to call and wait for an engineer.  It is fair to say, that while they are for both end-users and installers, many boiler manuals are aimed at the more technically minded!  Manuals can be a bit overwhelming to read although manufacturers are becoming more aware of this and many have responded by providing useful online video guides for end-users and installers alike.  Sime has just created some of our own, which you can see here.

While videos are a great go-to when customers need a confidence boost, I strongly believe that it is in the best interest of the installer to play a key role in educating customers about how to use their boiler controls, and show them basic adjustments to keep the boiler at its best, in between services.  Taking the time to educate customers about their boiler and showing them how to keep it operating at its best won’t lose custom, in fact it is far more likely to have the opposite effect and engender customer loyalty, repeat sales and good relationships.  I believe by teaching customers how to make minor adjustments to their boilers, without fear of doing any long-term (expensive) damage, installers will reap the benefits and their customers’ trust in the process, all of which help the bottom line!