Monday 30th July, 2007
In this article Martyn Reed, Head of Inspection Services at the BBA, outlines how he has worked with ultraframe to develop the industry’s first independently inspected installer approval scheme.
Ultraframe has been running its accredited installer scheme now for over 3 years. Whilst still embryonic, its fair to say that the scheme is setting the pace in the conservatory sector, by placing well trained professional home improvement companies in touch with motivated consumers.
The Ultra Installer Scheme, to give it its full name, has been developed to recognise and promote installation companies who can demonstrate high levels of service throughout the process, from securing the sale right through to handing over the finished conservatory to the householder. ultraframe has partnered with the BBA - experts in quality management systems, product approval, conservatory installation and building regulations and other statutory requirements – to develop a scheme that gives consumers protection from the cowboy element whilst adding value to the company itself. Certainly it isn’t designed to add additional burdens or red tape and the team of inspectors that the BBA use are all experienced in the window and conservatory sector rather than ivory tower `pen pusher` types!!
When a home improvement company joins the scheme, they are contacted by the BBA to book an inspection visit at a mutually agreed time, usually a month in advance. Guidance notes are sent to the member giving them an overview of what the inspector will do on the day, who will need to host the visit and what kind of criteria will they be checking.
The purpose of the inspection is to ensure that the installer:
- Is complying with the scheme’s consumer Code of Conduct
- Is complying with the consumers wishes/order
- Is using ultraframe`s and the GGF`s technical standards
- Complies with existing building Regulations including-Part `N` and Part L. and that separate permission is sought to move drains
- Complies with planning permission requirements
- Has clear processes to ensure quality at all stages of the buying chain
The inspector specifically looks at:
- Enquiry handling
- The sales process (showroom or in-home)
- Manufacturing/bought in items
- After-sales service
The approach to all of these is; “What would it be reasonable to expect here?”
The guidance notes illustrate what we would like to see and who we would like to speak with. We understand and appreciate that in many smaller companies the various personnel who carry out the functions above may in fact be one person. Do not be put off by this: our inspectors are from the industry and adopt a realistic attitude.
With enquiry handling, we want to see how you generate leads, if appropriate, or how you handle leads supplied by Ultraframe, how appointments are made and how you deal with the legislation covering doorstep selling.
We will want to meet your sales manager and any other appropriate sales staff and have a look at the appointments records.
For the sales process, we would like the sales manager to demonstrate the sales presentation, providing examples of supporting documentation – Visuals, estimates and Contracts and details of how variations to Contracts are managed.
We will want to see how you go about surveys: our meeting with the person in your company responsible for surveys should provide us with an understanding of this key part of the process. A major part of this will be seeing how you handle Building Regulation queries, services and the need to involve, where appropriate building control and possibly planning officers.
When we check the product specification, we appreciate that some installers fabricate their own frames/roof from the material supplied by system companies including Ultraframe while others buy complete fabricated items in.
Our scheme is limited to the installation only, so we start with the ordering of the roof. We need to see how information from the survey is translated into an order, or manufacturing instructions, for firms who make their own. We also want to see how product is stored to avoid damage and how picking, packing and loading tie in with the contract paperwork.
Installation is, as you might imagine, the biggest part of the process. We want to see two sites at different stages of construction – preferably one recently started and one nearly completed.
You need to be working safely, in accordance with relevant regulations and with regard to planning controls and the guidance provided by Ultraframe and the GGF.
In particular we will be looking at your organisation of plant and people, including sub-contractors, the briefings given to fitters on health and safety issues, the arrangements for safe storage for materials on site and the co-ordination of the arrival of material. We will look at base preparation and construction, including depth of foundations and building the dwarf walls, as well as the frames and the roof itself, checking that all is plumb and in order. We will want to see that, on completion, the site is made good, with rubbish and leftover materials cleared away.
The completed installation is never to be the end of the story for the best installers; there should be an after-sales service. Ultraframe is committed to customer care and you should be too. Ultraframe has particular requirements in this area and we would like to see how you deal with these. Remember, too, that after- sales service often provides the opportunity for new sales.
After one full visit cycle (initial visit and a surveillance visit after one year) the scheme manager will review the visit reports, the ratings and customer feedback to make a judgement on the frequency of future visits.
These visits should be viewed positively as the inspector discusses feedback at every stage of the 1-2 day visit and even with a tick in all the boxes; there is always room for improvement. To have this objective view of your business is a powerful marketing tool and certainly most of the scheme’s installer members use the written report in face-to-face retails visits. The written report usually consists of a two page typed report commenting on each of the six major areas inspected and gives the scores in each area and the overall pass mark. The overall pass mark is 65 out of 100 but installers have to pass in each of the 6 areas with the points attributed to each of the six varying depending upon the weight we have put on it as a fundamental part of the scheme e.g. installation has a maximum 35 marks attributed to it and 25 points are needed to pass whilst after-sales has a maximum 15 points and 10 are needed to pass.
In summary, companies who join the Ultra Installer Scheme are highly motivated and want to do things right. This BBA inspection regime, introduced by Ultraframe as an integral part of the scheme, is very powerful and gives proprietors and directors the confidence that they are doing all the right things. Certainly, any company who joins the scheme and puts themselves through the inspection is placing themselves on a pedestal, which will be attractive to a homeowner looking for a quality installation company. At the end of the day, would you prefer to compete with another quality Ultra Installer scheme member in your area or 30-40 others listed in Yellow Pages?