It is now more than three months since the UK lockdown was implemented to try to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Here we look at the changes we made at Alpha Heating Innovation that allowed us to continue supporting both homeowners and installers during this time. We also hear from key members of our team who have helped to make this possible.
We are proud to say that throughout the coronavirus outbreak we have been able to continue operating at close to normal levels while still following the government guidelines to protect the health of customers, our dedicated engineers and our wider team.
One of the first steps we took was to immediately limit callouts to emergency issues only and put a hold on all non-essential servicing and maintenance work. As the level of risk is being reduced, we have already been able to resume close to full service while maintaining safety precautions. To help ensure customers’ warranties were not affected by these steps, for any boiler that was due to be serviced between the 1st February and 31st May 2020 we have ensured that the warranty will remain valid on the product provided the annual service is completed by 30th September 2020.
Richard Geldard, our Customer Service Director explains the process: “Where it was necessary for an engineer to visit, our helpline team checked that it was safe to do so and that the customer was happy for the engineer to enter the property. New practices have been put in place to ensure contact between customers and engineers is minimised. The engineer finds out in advance where the boiler is in the property and goes straight there when they arrive. Members of the household are asked to remain elsewhere and then our engineer informs them when the issue has been fixed.
“We have had very few issues with this; customers have followed the advice and been pleased and appreciative of the assistance they have received.”
In addition, when the lockdown was first introduced the vast majority of staff at our head office were immediately moved to working remotely, including the helpline phone operators. “Our helpline has always been based at our head office in Kent so many of our operators had never worked in this way before,” Richard added. “However, without exception, everyone adapted quickly and thanks to their cooperation and the hard work of the IT team, our customers will have noticed very little difference. We have not had to reduce the number of calls we are taking or the level of support we can offer.”
Brendan Fenerty, our Sales Director added: “From the beginning we have kept as many of our team working as possible and that has allowed us to maintain a high level of customer contact, albeit in new ways and through different forms of communication.”
Moving to this way of working took a great deal of work by our IT team, led by Gareth Hughes. “With the benefit of some insights from our Italian parent company Immergas, we could see what was coming in advance and knew what we needed to do to be prepared,” Gareth said. “We began buying the equipment we needed for everyone to work remotely long before the lockdown was announced. This meant that we avoided any shortages at a later stage. Although we had a few teething problems to overcome, it actually progressed quite smoothly, which is remarkable when you consider the scale of what was required, and that this is entirely unprecedented. Credit must go to the hard work and cooperation of the team in every part of the business.”
With the situation slowly, but steadily improving, preparations are underway to allow our team to return to work, as our Logistics Manager Lee Battell, who is also responsible for health and safety, explains: “In consultation with workplace specialists, we have been making adaptations to the head office building to make it as COVID-secure as we can. We have formulated new routes through the space and modified the layout of the offices to allow social distancing. We have also introduced Perspex screens to provide additional protection in areas where social distancing will be more challenging. It is likely to be a gradual return and the managers will be working with each person to ensure they are able and comfortable to return. However, getting back to a more normal working life is something that many people are looking forward to.”
In the coming weeks and months, we will be looking at what we can learn from our experiences. “One of the key insights I believe we can take away from this is that we can work more paper-free,” Richard said. “Although most processes were already digitised, we kept some physical records. With everyone working remotely this has not been possible and we have had to rely solely on electronic systems. It has functioned with no problems and proved we don’t need these extra processes.”
Brendan added: “With face to face meetings no longer possible we had to adapt and rely more on phone calls, emails and even video conference calls. While it is not a true replacement for speaking in person, it has proved successful in keeping us in touch with our customers. We are now looking at how we can make use of these lines of communication more to allow us to have more regular contact with our customer base.”