Martyn Bridges, Director of Technical Communication and Product Management at Worcester Bosch, explains why it’s important for installers to be involved in the development of a new product from the outset.
One of the unique aspects of the heating industry is the route to market. Although it is increasingly important that the homeowner is aware of the brand, in the majority of cases it’s installers who make the final decision when it comes to which boiler is going to be fitted. They are the people that the consumer looks to for recommendations – they are the trusted advisors.
For manufacturers, the industry professionals are the most important part of business. They have always been an integral part of everything we do. It isn’t a case of keeping installers happy through giveaways, social media content, perks, and the like. It goes much deeper than that. They need to be front-of-mind when we are at stage one of new product development, whether that be a boiler, a control, or an accessory.
Certain questions need to be asked as part of that process. How can we make installation easier and safer? How can we make installers’ jobs easier and more effective?
How can we make their job safe? How can we save them (and the customer) time and money? The list goes on. Who better to ask those questions to than installers themselves?
We have just introduced our most exciting new boiler range in a decade, the Greenstar 8000 Lifestyle. It follows years of research and development, into not only what consumers are looking for but, more importantly, what installers expect. We started with installers in mind.
We brought installers into the process at the very beginning, from when it was just a concept. Hundreds of installers gave us views, feedback, and input into the design considerations. They became an extension of our team of developers and designers.
This insight helped us finesse various aspects of the new boiler. From its exterior look and feel, to where the internal components were positioned, to the accessories available at purchase, down to the packaging itself. Installers are interested in the practicalities of installation and ease of service, rather than pure looks, so it was essential we factored this in.
It could be said that manufacturers and businesses in many sectors create solutions for non-existent issues. Sometimes this works out well as it ends up solving problems that their audience didn’t know they had, but this isn’t typically the case in the heating industry.
Installers face the same issues on a regular basis, and it is the duty of the manufacturer to help solve these. We collate feedback from those we speak to in order to identify the industry-wide ones and then develop solutions to approach these. For example, one of the biggest call-outs for an installer, aside from the annual servicing, is topping up system pressure. Understandably the general public may not feel comfortable in doing so themselves – a boiler may look simple on the outside, but inside it is a complex beast.
We took this onboard and developed a solution for the Lifestyle range of boilers. The Greenstar 8000 Intelligent Filling System is an accessory that automatically tops up boiler system levels if there have been minor, micro leaks, ensuring that optimum boiler pressure is maintained. Our intention was to reduce callouts, giving installers more time to focus on larger and more financially-rewarding jobs.
Another example of a problem is accessibility. We learned from installers that discomfort is an issue they face during installation, and particularly when servicing.
Accessing internal components can be a time-consuming and sometimes painful job, especially if you only have one entry point at the front. We worked with installers to find a way that this could be solved, and developed a front cover that can be removed and replaced quickly with only one screw.
On top of that, we made the top and side panels removable as well in order to give installers complete flexibility when it comes to servicing. We also decided to colour code the inside with green touch points so the installer can access and easily identify the principle components.
I wouldn’t be here talking about these aspects of our new product if it wasn’t for the many installers involved with the creation of the product. As they are the ones who have the final say on what boiler gets installed in a home, it surely makes sense that they should be involved in designing it.