Trickle vents and everything you need to know.

New building regulations have been announced in the UK today.


So, what is the new home regulation that has been placed today? From today, all new and replacement windows must meet new ventilation and energy efficiency regulations. What does that mean? New and replacement windows should be fitted with trickle vents regardless of whether the windows being replaced had vents in them or not if no background ventilation alternative is being installed.


What impact will trickle vents make?


Installing trickle vents to windows will help keep the air in our homes fresh and clean, as well as keep condensation out and lower humidity in a room. While they may not be the most comprehensive ventilation solution, they can be used in conjunction with other systems to ensure excellent air quality throughout your property.


What does the regulation require?


Here is a summary of what the regulation requires:


  • When replacing windows with background ventilation (or trickle vents), it is necessary to ensure that new trickle vents are no smaller than the vents in the original window, and they must be controllable either automatically or by the occupant.
  • When replacing windows without background ventilation (or trickle vents), replacement of the windows is likely to increase the home’s airtightness. Therefore, the regulations specify that the ventilation provision is no worse than before the work was carried out by ensuring the installation of appropriate trickle vents.


The installation of appropriate trickle vents involves careful assessment of the room that needs to be ventilated and the positioning of the vents within the building. This will ensure comfortable and adequate ventilation whilst managing draughts and external noise.


The new building regulations coming into effect from June also specify certain requirements for thermal efficiency – this means that a particular ‘U Value’ needs to be achieved:


  • Achieving a thermal efficiency U Value rating of 1.4 W/m²K or less is required for all new and replacement windows and doors.


These regulations are there to help improve air quality within our homes and reduce the chance of dampness. However, as some of you may be aware, they could also lead to a need to overheat your house in winter by a couple of degrees which goes against NZ50 ambitions.


Things for businesses and consumers to be aware of:

  1. Trickle vents are short in supply. They are a regulatory requirement so be prepared for secondary visits to fit, or a slight delay to your initial installation date.
  2. Trickle vents for some are not the prettiest item to see. For consumers, your contractor will be obligated to fit them, so we would expect them to be quite forthright in installing them.
  3. The majority of windows and doors projects will require them. There are a handful of scenarios where they may not be required. These kind be found in the document detailing Part F:

Is getting more complaints a bad thing?

It sounds like the answer should be yes doesn’t it?

I recently had a client tell me that since introducing our complaint handling services,  they had seen an increase in complaints. His service had not changed, business was slowing down and so could not understand what the point of our service was. It was causing problems and whilst business was slowing down, he was still having to pay for our complaints service.

In my position, this was a difficult start to the conversation.

However, although we could see the client’s complaints increasing, we could see the number of disputes (escalated complaints) and claims were coming down. This was important. Whereas at a complaint stage, you still have the opportunity to turn a complainant into an advocate, depending on how brilliantly you respond to their complaint. But at a dispute or claim stage, the trust is rapidly vanishing and your ability to retain your customer for further business is becoming very difficult.

As we worked through the problem what became apparent was that by becoming easily contactable, for customers to raise a complaint, the client was indeed receiving more. By ourselves engaging in those complaints early, we were reducing the normally high escalated complaints and claims.

In a world prior to social media, one complainant would negatively influence 24 people on average with regards to your company’s service. UK research has shown that it is likely only 8% of customers actually complain if they are not happy.

Think about that for a second. For every complaint you are not seeing come into your business, this could be a person negatively impacting on average 24 potential customers. Potentially in your local area. Which you would never know, unless you are actively inviting those complainants to come to you with any feedback in regards to your products or services.

Putting that all to one side. Those additional complaints that we did invite in provided so much more information in relation to where the client’s service was going wrong. We were able to identify that missed appointments were a rising problem, and that was intrinsically linked to their downturn in business. As a result, actions are now in place to turn this around, which in turn should reduce the number of complaints and also increase the number of installations being completed, improving their bottom line.

We will continue to invite complaints for our clients. We help resolve them. But more importantly, we help improve and ultimately sustain or grow their business.

Renewable energy interest is on the up. But is the UK ready for it?

I write this as an avid fan of moving towards a sustainable future. I have children who I am very conscious of being the receivers of a world tainted by the industrial revolution and what has followed since. However I also believe that in using more energy, this normally translates into a better standard of living. So, the secret is to not use less energy, but to use more, ensuring that it is clean energy.

At QASSS, we have been building up a picture of how renewable energy is delivered to the UK homeowner. We collect data around complaints, disputes and claims in relation to renewable energy, along with other home improvement sectors. It allows us to have a view of how things look at the backend; how do all of those sales translate to deliveries and installations. How do those installations translate to quality and great service.

Its fair (we think) to say that the UK is still quite new to the world of renewables, at a residential level certainly. We are still feeling the aftermath of the great solar mis-sell event which happened in the UK. In 2014/15, sales were booming across the country, particularly in those sunny southern regions. But by the end of 2015, the sinister side of the boom started to show its face. Claims arriving on the doorsteps of retailers, installers and finance lenders. Mis-selling being mentioned everywhere. Claims/compensation style companies picking up on the scent, as vulnerable consumers were being promised the undeliverable.

What drove this? Government incentives and a lack of market entry controls. The Government Feed-in Tariff along with RHI (renewable heat incentive) payments accelerated the interest in renewable energy. At the time, it was mainly solar. But with that interest comes opportunity to make a fast buck. As the RHI scheme came to an end in 2020/21, renewable energy installations were not just flatlining, but declining. This showed a market that was built upon financial incentive, and not necessarily by the climate change agenda which is feeling more real now.
As we come out of a pandemic, and with rising energy prices, and a need to reduce our reliance on gas, renewable energy has never looked so attractive. Add to that more incentives such as the removal of VAT from renewable energy equipment purchases, the introduction of a Boiler Upgrade Scheme, the addition of renewable energy to the government ECO4 scheme, plus others…the market is perfectly positioned to make a lot of the same mistakes from 2015.

With a surge in demand, comes the need for more materials and skilled labour. Both of which are found lacking at the moment. The renewable energy gold rush is on, and the impacts of that are already starting to show in consumer detriment volumes.

So, what is the point of this article? Well right now the UK still needs more investment from renewable energy manufacturers, home insures and banks. It needs more skilled labour and better supply chains. It needs more measures to assist in ensuring only professional businesses are allowed to operate in it.

To mitigate the above, more than ever, companies delivering these solutions have to invest in their design departments. With the amount of work becoming available, they need to learn to say no when they have not got the right solution. They need to ensure that collectively they manage renewable energy installations with a quality first mindset, to assist in enhancing the reputation of the market. UK consumers need this confidence as they seek to understand how they should spend their money in order to avoid long term, excessive energy bills.
We all have a duty to make sure that renewable energy works. Particularly for our children.

If there are organisations or individuals out there interested in receiving anonymised, industry data, highlighting where things may be going wrong with the sales, installation or aftercare phases of renewable energy, please feel free to subscribe to our emailing list.

Poor Quality Workmanship Continues To Hold Back The Home Improvement Sector

In 2021 we heard about a lot of the problems impacting the home improvement sector. Some could be seen as ‘good’ problems, with record levels of demand hitting the UK as a result of those buying behaviours moving from holidays to home improvement.

The UK RMI (repair, maintenance and improvement) sector is worth approximately £52.3bn to the UK economy. Private housing RMI is expected to grow by 3-4% per year up to 2025.

In March 2021, we saw the highest private RMI spend for over a decade. is receiving more than 150,000 job requests from families each month, a rate it says is ‘significantly higher than pre-pandemic levels’.

Mortgage broker at Mojo Mortgages says compared to 2019, 2021 remortgage applications for home improvements were up 174%.

As those good problems continue to rise, we could see the issues unfold in trying to deliver that record level of demand.


Record Levels of Skill Shortages

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of Trade Body, the Federation of Master Builders, stated that ‘over half of small, local builders can’t find skilled tradespeople’. We could see builders demanding fees up to £2,000.00 to reserve their services six months in advance.

It is estimated that the UK will need an extra 1.25m trade workers by 2030, including 305,000 qualified trade apprentices, something very much recognised by The British Institute of Kitchen and Bathroom Installation (BiKKBI), and their CEO, Damian Walters.

Listen to this… one-fifth of construction trade workers aged 55 or over will retire before 2030. Given that there is around 1.2m RMI companies in the UK, that is the potential for a lot of skill to leave the sector.


Record Levels of Material Shortages

So what has caused it. Take your pick:

  • COVID pandemic
  • Brexit
  • Demand surge
  • Shortages in production
  • Shortages in haulage
  • The Suez Canal blockage.

As a result, 82% of traders are reporting material price increases. Not good for the UK consumer or UK purchasing a business.


A different view

As a result of the above, the UK is starting to witness record levels of detriment. But is it actually a result of the above, or are some older problems still existing?

QASSS currently provide outsourced complaints management, along with independent alternative dispute resolution and claims management services. As a result, we see a lot of what is happening at the ‘back end’. 2021 was a tough year for sure, but looking at the dispute volumes and categories coming through, we can see that still at the top of the charts are:

In fact, when it came to disputes, there were very few that could be attributed directly to the two main challenges are highlighted above. This is important to note so that as an industry, we don’t lose sight of the issues that still sit there, and it is those issues that are inviting many disruptors into the market.

If you are interested in learning more or want to gain more insight from our anonymised data sets, please email us at [email protected]

What exactly is Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)?

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is a service that is used to resolve escalated complaints, or disputes, between customers and businesses, using several resolution management techniques with the intention to resolve before the need for court proceedings.

The service helps the customer and business resolve a dispute by finding a fair resolution that satisfies both parties.

So basically, an independent peacekeeper, to find a way for both sides to agree, or in some cases, make a decision on a suitable outcome for both parties.

Understanding the differences in services

So, this is where the industry jargon kicks in. All the below are forms of ADR, with some organisations offering some if not all the services:


In simple terms, this is an independent professional, trained to ask both parties the right questions to support both parties in coming up with an acceptable resolution on their own. It is not legally binding, but more of a ‘soft’ ADR process to challenge what each party is saying, and to see if they can reach compromise or conclusion together. The person providing this service does not necessarily need to have experience in your industry. At QASSS, we ensure that mediators only work on home improvement and renewable energy disputes, building up their working knowledge, allowing for faster, better-quality mediation.


This is where you start to up the ante from mediation. Less soft, this service is directly about bringing two parties together to settle a dispute in an attempt to avoid taking a case to court. The big difference here is that the independent officer should have some level of industry experience to allow them the opportunity to present some possible resolutions to both sides if they cannot find the answer on their own. This is where QASSS operates in the norm. Due to our ADR Officers being focused on specific industries, they naturally move into a conciliator role, assisting both sides with possible, fair settlements.


Normally associated with the Ombudsman landscape. This is where judgement is made on a dispute by an independent third party. Similar to mediation, this is often provided by individuals trained legally, but not necessarily industry experts. When adjudicating between a business and consumer, the final judgment is made, with that decision being legally binding normally on only the business. It should be quite a quick process in theory but can often take longer.


Effectively adjudication on steroids. A decision at the arbitration level will supersede any decision made at an adjudication level. Arbitration is a longer process but is legally binding equally on both parties. Both parties agree to their dispute being transferred to an independent arbitrator, who will normally be legally qualified and will pass a ruling, providing the reasons for that outcome to both parties.

Expert Determination

The faster, cheaper version of Arbitration. It’s normally faster for two reasons; the independent expert is just that; an expert in the field of the dispute. Secondly, they will not provide both parties with all of their case notes or reasons for their decision. This speeds up the administrative processes but gets to the same result as arbitration. The resulting determination is legally binding on both parties.  QASSS set up its own Expert Determination service for clients and their consumers who wanted to avoid court and wanted to reach a resolution quickly. We do offer arbitration if required, however, to avoid higher costs for our customers, we recommend Expert Determination. For clients who use Dispute Assist already, QASSS provide the Expert Determination free of charge to the client, should it be required.

The benefits of using ADR

For companies:

At QASSS, we understand that complaints, if not dealt with, can lead to costly and lengthy court proceedings as well as being a drain on internal resources. ADR is considerably cheaper and also confidential so not in the public domain.

Using an ADR service takes the emotion out of the situation as disputes are resolved impartially and based on facts. It also helps prevent louder negative conversations on social media and protects brand reputation.

Businesses have an obligation to signpost consumers to a competent Alternative Dispute Resolution provider and tell them whether or not they are prepared to use the ADR provider to deal with the dispute. In certain sectors, ADR is a mandatory requirement. To find out more about your legal obligations, click here.


With in-depth sector knowledge and professional mediators, we provide award-winning fast resolutions (4.4 days on average) and, most importantly, protect consumer’s and company reputations.

  • Save time and resources. Referring disputes to an experienced ADR provider will realise operational efficiencies, free up customer care services and other internal resources.
  • Save costs, stress, and avoid going to court. Consumers will be less likely to bring legal proceedings which are not only time-intensive, stressful, and costly, but also in the public domain.
  • Reach a quicker decision. ADR is usually quicker than lengthy court proceedings. At QASSS, we have an average resolution time of just 3.59 days.
  • Drive better outcomes for customers, avoid deadlocks and potential reputational damage.
  • Ensure fairness and independence by using ADR officials who will act with impartiality when resolving disputes.
  • Improve conversion and retention. Stand out from competitors by demonstrating a clear commitment to high-quality customer service.

For consumers:

In certain circumstances, you may find that you are unable to reach a conclusion with an installer in the event of a dispute. It’s in these times when ADR can help find a resolution. ADR is unbiased and aims to find a fair resolution and agree with both parties.

  • Reduces the time to resolve a complaint
  • Avoids the cost and stress involved in going to court.
  • Ensures fairness and independence – ADR officials act with impartiality when resolving disputes.
  • Prevents further upset. ADR takes the emotion out of the situation where disputes are resolved independently based on facts.
  • Ensures everyone is dealt with professionally, courteously, and sympathetically.

If you operate in the home improvement or renewable energy sectors and are interested in learning more about ADR options, please do not hesitate to contact us at [email protected] or on tel no 0161 676 0919

CORGI logo

CORGI Fenestration Dispute Resolution Case Study

In 2021, we launched a new partnership with CORGI Fenestration to introduce our Dispute Assist product to their members. Dispute Assist is an innovative and pre-event service which gives businesses access to industry-leading alternative dispute resolution (ADR for short) at a nominal and all-inclusive price.

One of our first ADR cases involved mediating between a consumer and a CORGI Fenestration member. The installer and consumer were at deadlock and contemplating legal action after a major dispute, which is when the ADR team at QASSS were instructed on February 18th, 2021, to help resolve the case.


The consumer claimed that the CORGI installer had not carried out her installation of 13 windows, with due care and attention. The consumer was seeking that all the windows be removed and replaced. A lot of this was based on emotion rather than necessity.

Over the course of the month after the initial installation, emotions & frustrations escalated on both sides. The consumer withheld full payment which prompted both sides to threaten legal action.

CORGI referred the member company to QASSS Ltd and subsequently, both the consumer and company agreed to enter into mediation. Both parties understood that the ADR service is impartial and focuses on the facts to seek a fair and mutually agreeable resolution.


Tracy Dilworth, our Senior Dispute Resolution Officer, worked with both parties using mediation to focus them on the facts and distinct areas of the dispute.

Tracy used her in depth experience of the fenestration sector, along with our state-of-the-art video remote capture technology, to gain the required evidence and build a complete complaint file. This resulted in both parties saving time and money, with not having to obtain further expert reports and allowing all parties to view the evidence provided.

Once the evidence was gathered and a full complaint file complied, we were able to enter into mediation with both parties to seek that mutually agreeable resolution. These techniques involve taking the emotion out of a complaint and working solely on the facts. The resolution resulted in a combination of remedial works to be carried out, within an agreed timescale, and the consumer agreeing full and final payment once satisfied.

From instruction to full resolution, QASSS achieved this within just 4 days!

In line with the agreement, remedial work was then carried out and the consumer paid the agreed balance in full.

Both parties have expressed they would not have reached a fair resolution without the help of QASSS and how delighted they were with the speed and professionalism of our ADR service, reflected in the testimonials below received from both parties.



I was offered the services of QASSS Ltd via CORGI Fenestration to assist me in seeking a resolution for the issues I had. Although slightly apprehensive, I can now not thank Tracy & QASSS enough.

Tracy took the time to talk to me and understand my frustrations and the issues I had. It was great talking to Tracy as I really did feel that she was going to get this matter sorted for me.

Now everything has been resolved and I am so happy that I can move on. I can’t recommend QASSS and the whole ADR process enough. This saved me a great deal of time, money (due to not having to go legal), and emotional pain. It has made me think that if I am carrying out any further works to my property, I will ensure they have an ADR provider!

Many thanks, Ms. H., Consumer.


After one of our customers refused to pay and was very uncooperative, we were advised by CORGI to try mediation from QASSS. We were very sceptical at first as with all our dealings with our customer we saw no possible way of anybody getting through to her, but as we were not getting paid what was the harm in trying?

From the first meeting with Tracy, she put us at ease and made us feel that there could be hope of us getting resolution. With all our correspondence with Tracy she has remained professional and helpful and intent on getting an amicable outcome.

It took a while to get there as trying to get everybody in the same place at the same time was a bit of a nightmare, but I’m pleased to say that today the final balance has cleared, and full payment has been received. Thank you, Tracy!

We wouldn’t hesitate in recommending this service to anybody who made need it in the future. Thanks again Tracy and in the nicest possible way we hope we don’t have to deal with you again any time soon!!!

Kind Regards, CORGI Member company.




ADR is what we are famous for. We are the only CTSI approved ADR provider with over 10 years’ experience in the home improvement sector (all verticals including renewables).

Due to our industry-leading speed (our average dispute resolution time is less than 4 days), we move quickly to take complaints that are escalating and gain fair and reasonable resolutions that both parties can agree to, using mediation and conciliation.

Uniquely in the ADR space, we can also complete any remedial works needed via an independent approved contractor network.

Our innovative Dispute Assist product is the first ever ‘pre-event’ ADR solution, which gives trade organisations, their members and consumers access to the QASSS award-winning service at a nominal price.

Plus, with Dispute Assist, companies get all-inclusive dispute resolution services – this includes all costs including mediation and conciliation, independent inspections, expert witnesses and Ombudsman access – so there are no surprise bills.

materials roofing

Materials and labour shortages leading to rising prices and soaring complaints

Despite uncertainty in the economy and the end of furlough, there is an ongoing surge in home improvements, but at what price to both businesses and consumers given materials and labour shortages?

Continuing low interest rates means that disposable income remains high, and many homeowners are remortgaging (up 174% so far this year*) to fund larger projects and take advantage of low fixed-rate deals.

However, materials, labour, and now fuel shortages mean that the cost of home improvements is increasing and could be adding around 20%+ on to design and build costs**.

Jamie Megson, director of Avail Mortgage Brokers, said that one family arranging a remortgage saw their quote for a single-storey extension and garage conversion rise from £50,000 to £70,000 in just two months.

Brian Berry, chief executive of trade body Federation of Master Builders, commented,

Over half of small, local builders can’t find skilled tradespeople and 98% have seen material prices soar due to lack of availability. These pressures will continue later into this year and likely beyond.

As a result of the continuing demand, experts say busy builders are demanding fees of up to £2,000 to reserve their services six months in advance.

The numbers around skills shortages are astonishing. According to HomeServe Foundation,

  • 1.25million extra construction trades workers are needed by 2030.
  • 228,000 apprentices are needed in key trades, with 61% being plumbers, electricians, and joiners.
  • 1/5th of construction trades workers aged 55 or over will retire before 2030.
  • 60% of home improvement and repairs work is done by firms with nine or fewer workers

Soaring demand for raw materials also continues with manufacturers struggling to rebuild stock levels which is impacting both consumers and businesses with higher prices and longer lead times.

The UK’s largest builders merchants are warning of considerable cost increases to raw materials amid industry-wide shortages. Figures quoted on cement/gypsum costs included increases of 15%, with timber at 10% and paint at 5%.

Although some product supply has improved slightly, certain items including, for example, bagged cement, bricks and blocks, concrete roof tiles, chipboard, lintels, and PVC products remain in short supply with some lead times around 24-30 weeks!

And unfortunately, these issues look set to continue with increasing pressures on transport, energy, and fuel prices.

Many consumers are unaware of the impact of materials and labour shortages and the pressures and delays facing tradespeople which will undoubtedly lead to a huge rise in complaints and disputes, absorbing even more time and resource and longer-term reputational damage.

section 75 claims

Section 75 claims made easy

Claims made easy

The impact of COVID is continuing to have an affect on home improvement and renewable energy companies. Although demand is high, issues with financing and the supply chain means that we are now seeing businesses of all sizes being adversely affected and the fallout from this could impact the financial industry, where lenders and credit card companies are used to finance essential home improvement work.

With an increasing number of retailers ceasing to trade and increasing customer complaints, this could lead to a rise in Section 75 claims for customers that are having to rely on credit cards for financing. Coupled with the fact that some customers are already financially stressed, this could lead to even poorer customer experiences.

Lenders have historically managed Section 75 claims by asking consumers to obtain their own expert reports and estimates for rectifying issues. This approach can place potentially vulnerable customers in difficult situations where they are left feeling isolated and unsupported, and unsure what can be classed as an expert report. Customers may also experience distress and inconvenience when they feel they have not been supported, with complaints potentially being escalated to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Previously, lenders have been able to manage BAU claim volumes where small numbers of businesses have entered administration. However, due to the current crisis and forecasts about the economy, it is possible the industry will see a rise in claims. With many lenders currently operating home-based teams only, an increase in cases could complicate things further. If you also factor in that customers will need more assistance, the situation could cause further delays and inconvenience.

However, if cases are proactively managed, inspections completed by experts and repair work undertaken by competent and vetted suppliers, settlement costs can be significantly reduced and lifecycle times minimised. It is therefore more important than ever for lenders and credit card providers to review how these claims are managed and to consider the best approach for their businesses and customers.

How QASSS can help

At QASSS, we provide a comprehensive solution for financial institutions and insurers across the home improvement and renewable energy sectors – claims management, inspection services and remedial works.

  • When companies cease to trade, we provide a unique “one-stop shop” solution for lenders, brokers, credit card companies and IBG providers.
  • We provide a national solution for Consumer Credit Act claims and our service spans all home improvement verticals.
  • We protect the reputation of financial businesses, whilst controlling their claims spend and ensuring the right outcomes for customers.
  • We handle cases for lenders where companies are still trading and inspections or remedial works are needed.
  • We provide insurers with a unique end to end solution for claims involving renewable equipment.

Why we are different

  • Capability and knowledge spans the lending and insurance space
  • Deep understanding of Section 56 & 75 claims
  • Claims surge planning to cover major retailer collapse
  • Fixed inspection and claims management fees
  • Award-winning services
  • 2 year guarantee on completed works
  • Desktop and site validation
  • Tiered Inspection Services
  • Use of video capture technology
  • Vetted and managed supply chain
  • Embedded approach to vulnerable customers
  • Fraud management

If you’d like to learn more, contact Scott Robinson, Commercial Director, on 0161 676 0919 or email [email protected]



customer complaints

Handling customer complaints – seven quick top tips

Good customer service has always been important, now more than ever given the rise of social media and review sites. Quick and effective complaint management will help you turn customer complainers into brand advocates, helping to increase brand loyalty and your company’s reputation. Every email, call, letter or social media message and the way you handle it is crucial in the process. Here are our top tips on handling customer complaints and you can also download our handy guide.

Complaint Handling

Handling customer complaints – time is of the essence

Be quick to respond – this should be a priority. Customers become even more frustrated by slow responses, feeling that their complaints are sat ignored in a lonely inbox. Phone customers wherever possible, even if they made contact through a different channel. Make sure you have planned capacity to handle all complaints, even during peak periods, as swiftly as possible and from all communication channels.

Make your customers feel listened to

When responding to unhappy customers, you need to get them into an agreeable frame of mind. Listen to them, do not interrupt and let them blow off steam. In many situations, it’s as important to ensure you fully listen to the problem and make sure the customer feels like they’ve been understood, as it is to resolve the problem. Make sure you not only acknowledge the facts of the situation but also how it’s made them feel.

Be genuine

Customers can often become more aggravated when complaint handlers are following a script. Empower your team to focus on the customer experience and let them use the opportunity to start a genuine conversation. This builds up trust and helps the customer feel respected and that you are taking their complaint seriously.

Exceed Expectations

Some customer complaints cannot be resolved easily, particularly where you cannot undo the problem, but you should always strive to make it up to the customer. This will go a long way into converting complainants into brand advocates. Going above and beyond makes customers feel important and respected. By exceeding customer expectations even by a small amount, you can make them feel like your most valued customer which leads to repeat business and true brand loyalty.

Manage the wider conversation

With the rise of online reviews and social media, customer complaints can reach huge audiences so it’s important to act quickly and protect your brand from negative reactions. Manage the wider conversation and use your interactions with unhappy customers to turn them around and demonstrate excellent customer service to wider audiences and prevent louder and more negative conversations.

Use the opportunity to build brand reputation

When you deal with customer complaints really well, unhappy customers will turn into delighted customers and become loyal brand advocates. If you exceed expectations, they are more likely to be motivated to tell friends and share their experiences with others, particularly on social media. If customers do share their positive experiences, thank them, and use the opportunity to repost.

Use analysis to continually improve

Unhappy customers will be brutally honest. By listening and taking detailed notes for analytical purposes, this will give you invaluable insights and feedback which will help your business improve and minimise future complaints. Root cause analysis will help you understand potentially wider problems and issues. Analysis of how you have handled complaints and outcomes will also help you improve your complaint handling process.


QASSS provides bespoke complaint handling and dispute resolution services to help improve your brand reputation, repeat business and save you time and money. To find out how we can help, contact us online or call on 0161 676 0919.


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home improvements

Latest research suggests soaring spend on home improvements

Many of us have spent more time at home over the last year than ever anticipated and spending on home improvements has continued to soar according to research by Powered Now, with 48% of the UK spending a staggering £110.3bn on home improvements.

This was an average of £2,011 per person with the most popular projects being home offices, gyms, and general refreshes. The research also showed that the spending signalled a 29.7% increase as compared to 2019 data by Zopa which reported UK expenditure of £83bn on home improvements.

Home improvements headline stats

  • 23% of Brits (5,055,000) employed painters and decorators;
  • 15% (3,229,000) employed a tradesperson for bathroom improvement/renovation;
  • 14% (2,936,000) undertook a roofing job;
  • 13% (2,765,000) employed a tradesperson for a kitchen replacement/renovation;
  • 7% (1,513,000) had hired a tradesperson to build an outhouse/shed;
  • 4% (818,000) had a tradesperson/builder for an extension; and
  • 3% (696,000) had a home gym installed by a tradesperson.

Why are homeowners looking to improve their homes?

From previous research published last year by, the main reasons why homeowners committed to home improvements were:

  • 58% did so in favour of moving up the housing ladder;
  • 27% cited cheaper costs; and
  • 20% wanted to increase the value of their home.

But how has the UK lockdown affected homeowners and the industry? 39% said that lockdown has been the main driver to either move or make improvements. A further 36% said that the decision was a result of spending more time at home which made them notice that their home needed home improvements. 24% said spending more time at home caused a general ‘wear and tear’.

Ben Dyer, chief executive officer of Powered Now, said:

The news that consumer spending is through the roof directly correlates from what we have seen on the ground. We have witnessed tradespeople experiencing their highest client demand ever during 2020, and these figures are very much in line with what we would have expected.

If you look to the hardware retailers that were allowed to remain open when other non-essential retail wasn’t, they have performed so incredibly, further indicating the desire people have had for home improvements.

Of course, there are other factors too. The stamp duty holiday has had a huge trickle-down impact for the rest of the trades. Whether it be people looking to renovate after their home moves, or potential sellers giving a new lick of paint to try and squeeze any additional value to their house, tradespeople have been inundated as a result. Despite the initial lockdown bringing the industry to a standstill, the economic bounce-back has been quite remarkable.

Consumer Protection

With all these home improvements being made and with more on the horizon, we can’t help but wonder how many homeowners look for that extra layer of protection when choosing their tradespeople. It was found that only 21% checked whether their contractor was even fully insured. Therefore, we would always recommend homeowners check online reviews and check that tradespeople are fully accredited, insured, and have a proper complaints and dispute procedure in place should anything go wrong.


complaint handling customer service

Post-pandemic – the importance of excellent complaint handling

Over the last year, many companies have been given a bit of a free pass when it comes to customer service and complaint handling. However, consumer patience is now starting to wear thin. The latest Institute of Customer Service survey shows that overall customer satisfaction is at 76.8/100 – the lowest it has been since 2015!

Consumers have of course understood many companies have experienced operational issues during the pandemic, but they now expect customer service to be fully back to normal.

Companies can also no longer ignore the importance of personal interaction when it comes to complaint handling, particularly in the home improvement and renewables sector.

The rise of digital technology enabling improved customer experience brings huge benefits, particularly around resource and response. However, when it comes to complaints, companies should not underestimate the importance of customers being able to speak directly to empathetic and knowledgeable staff to get their issues resolved quickly.

The importance of excellent complaint handling

Customer satisfaction and loyalty are intrinsically linked to business performance; therefore, companies must ensure excellent customer service, including complaint handling, is at the forefront of their strategy in 2021 and beyond.

With the rise of social media, online reviews have now become a non-negotiable part of local and national business. 86% of customers read reviews for local businesses and 22% are driven away by just 1 negative review!

Further, a complaining customer is better than a lost customer. Not only do you have the chance to respond and manage the complaint (and online review), but you can also turn even the most unhappy customers into brand advocates who will help spread the word and promote your business.

If you want to understand more about the true cost of unhappy customers to your business, download our complaint cost calculator. Just input your business metrics, and the calculator will show the impact on your company’s revenue and margin.

Top tips

So, what do firms need to do to be able to deliver excellence when it comes to handling complaints?

Here are 5 quick tips:

1.Driving excellence in complaint handling should be a key part of your business strategy

This includes ensuring that overall accountability lies at Board level or directly with the owner. Ensure you develop and implement a strategic plan which includes what excellent complaint handling ‘looks like’, policies, procedures, resourcing, analysis, and monitoring.

2. Educate all employees

This includes management and employees that do not necessarily deal with frontline complaints. By implementing an ongoing training programme, you are also demonstrating that consumer complaints are a key priority for the business.

With the pandemic, there has also been a rise in the number of people falling into the ‘vulnerable’ category, therefore ensure training includes how to identify and deal with vulnerable customers.

3. Do not underestimate the importance of speed, knowledge, and human interaction

Customers need human contact, empathy, and quick resolution, especially for issues that are complex or personally important. Ensure there is always the opportunity to speak to a knowledgeable person at the first point of contact or when needed along the customer journey. Companies with a ‘human touch’ and focus on speed are more likely to increase and retain a larger number of customers.

4. Ensure you have a process for recording, monitoring, analysing, and measuring customer complaints and feedback

All feedback is invaluable and these insights will help you improve processes, products, services, and your reputation. This should include all customer feedback channels and all customer interactions. Quality monitoring will help develop your team and identify any gaps in skills or training requirements.

Include root cause analysis which will help you identify recurring problems, put preventative action in place, and ultimately, help improve outcomes,

5. Share feedback with all employees

Not only does having a process for ongoing feedback support a customer-centric culture and keep customer service front-of-mind, but it also helps improve business processes, consistency of service and can identify areas for product development or training.

Having a well-managed complaints process and customer service focus will help drive trust, loyalty, continuous improvement, and growth.

How QASSS can help

At QASSS, we specialise in providing bespoke complaint handling solutions for home improvement and renewable energy companies. We have in-depth experience in the sector, delivering quick resolutions, driving better customer outcomes and experiences, and helping protect and improve the reputation of our clients.

If you’d like to find out more about outsourced complaint handling, contact us online or call 0161 676 0919.


Businesses shun litigation in favour of dispute resolution during the pandemic

Over the last year, during the pandemic, many businesses have avoided litigation and used alternative dispute resolution to resolve commercial disputes.

63% of more than 100 companies surveyed by YouGov for EY said that since the pandemic began, they had adopted a more conciliatory approach to disputes, with 77% using Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) to help resolve an issue.

The results suggest that many companies did follow official government guidance issued in May 2020 which advised companies to avoid litigation during the pandemic.

Based on their experience during the pandemic, 44% of companies indicated that they would be more likely to use ADR to resolve future disputes due to greater flexibility, time and cost savings as compared to the legal route.

However, EY predicts a likely post-pandemic surge in legal claims in 2021 as many companies indicated that they expected to see a step-change in the need to maximise the recovery of losses once the current package of government support for businesses and employees ends.

Yet, 43% of companies also indicated that they feel unprepared to deal with any potential increase in claims due to potential claim volume and insufficient resources, increased pressure to settle quickly due to broader business and financial pressures, uncertainty about the ongoing impact of COVID-19, and concerns over the pending impact of Brexit related disputes.

Using an approved Alternative Dispute Resolution provider as an extension of your team will help relieve the pressure on internal resources, saving both time and money. ADR is considerably cheaper than litigation and can help resolve disputes quickly and fairly, helping to protect brand reputation.

At QASSS, we provide CTSI approved, award-winning alternative dispute resolution services (ADR) for the home improvement and renewable energy sectors. We have won multiple awards for our industry-leading speed and expertise, with an average resolution time of just 3.59 days. To find out how we can help, call 0161 676 0919 or email [email protected]



insulation scam

Warnings issued after rogue firms are targeting the elderly with COVID-19 insulation scam

The elderly and vulnerable are being targeted by rogue loft insulation firms who are scaring people into paying thousands of pounds (in some cases, up to nearly £10,000) to remove recently installed spray foam insulation.

The rogue firms are cold calling residents claiming that their loft insulation was causing moisture problems, emitting pathogens and even claiming that the insulation would increase their chances of contracting COVID-10!

Some of the scammers are falsely claiming that they are working with local councils and that the work could be covered under the Green Homes Grant Scheme which has recently been scrapped by the Government.

In East Sussex, one elderly lady was called by a recently set up company who offered her a free assessment claiming that her recently installed insulation could devalue her home. They said that the insulation was eroding her roof timbers and quoted nearly £10,000 to remove it for her and used pressure selling to try and persuade her to sign up there an then for a discounted deal at £7,000.

Local authorities across the UK have issued urgent warnings to residents. Anyone concerned about the activity of a cold caller is urged to contact the Citizens Advice Helpline on 0808 223 1133 or call Action Fraud UK on 0300 123 2030.

good complaint handling

How excellent complaint handling can create brand advocates

Answering customer complaints effectively and quickly can turn unhappy customers into true brand advocates.

Even the most vocal and complex complaints handled well, will see your customer advocacy increase across the board.

Your strategy should be to win hearts and minds and embrace complainants. You should see those customers as an opportunity rather than a headache. Why?

Excellent complaint handling creates increased affinity and loyalty

By helping customers and solving their complaints, you can increase both affinity and brand loyalty which helps drive profitable brand growth. A customer whose complaint has been resolved will create more positive word of mouth than most satisfied customers, which can have 20 times the impact of normal advertising. Plus, those customers will become more loyal than they were before the problem arose.

Brand advocates are invaluable to your company

Brand advocates are not just loyal, your brand advocates will do the job of promoting your business for you and drive reputation, which in turn can help drive revenue. If you can exceed customer expectations, unhappy customers who have had a problem solved well are more likely to be motivated to tell friends and share their experience with others, particularly on social media. All at no cost to you.

Good complaint handling should be an extension of your marketing budget

Customer services should not be viewed as an operational overhead, rather as an extension of your marketing budget. With the rise of social media and review sites, it is now even easier for customers to publicly share their experiences, creating a legion of brand advocates who can save you marketing spend.

If you’d like to download our handy guide on how complaint handling can create true brand advocates, click here.

At QASSS, we have many years of experience in complaint handling and dispute resolution and we understand just how critical good complaint handling is to the home improvement sector. Our bespoke complaint handling and alternative dispute resolution services can help you save time, money and avoid reputational damage. To find out how we can help, contact us on 0161 676 0919 or email [email protected]


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back to basics with ADR

Back to Basics with ADR

Back to basics with ADR

In this article, we go back to basics with ADR in the home improvement sector. ADR is short for alternative dispute resolution. ADR is a really helpful service that uses mediation and conciliation to help a consumer and installer resolve a dispute outside of court.

When undertaking a home improvement project, the last thing an installer and homeowner wants to think about is what to do if something goes wrong.

Here’s a typical scenario, looking at it from both sides.

First off, put yourself in an installer’s shoes;

  • You’ve scheduled in approximately 12 weeks for a conservatory job.
  • Planned in a lot of time and resources for the project.
  • Conservatory project is completed and you’re happy with the final product.
  • Within days, weeks or months, you find out that your customer is unhappy.
  • The customer wants money to rectify what they are unhappy with and compensation.
  • As an installer, your reputation both off and online, profit and potentially the company’s stability is now on the line.

Now, put yourself in a homeowner’s shoes;

  • Thought about your conservatory for months or years.
  • You’ve spent a lot of time saving up or are now paying a sizeable amount a month out in finance.
  • You’ve scheduled in approximately 12 weeks to have your conservatory built, your home will be a mess, and the upheaval is usually stressful.
  • Conservatory project is complete.
  • Within days, weeks or months, you find a problem with the conservatory or it simply just isn’t what you expected.
  • You now want to seek justice as you realise how much it has cost you and you’re not happy with the result.
  • The installer disagrees and finds your complaint is unfounded.

So, where do both parties go from here? Each party wants to avoid costly court proceedings and save time and resources and that’s exactly where ADR comes in.

ADR is impartial and looks to find a fair resolution to the dispute and agree this with both parties, thus preventing lengthy and costly court proceedings.

Three advantages of QASSS ADR mediation services

1. It’s Financially Advantageous

QASSS resolve 99% of escalated complaints within the mediation process, thus preventing the need for any court proceedings and hefty legal fees.

2. It’s Fast

Court cases are notorious for being long-winded and can often take months before a final decision is made. The ADR service provided by QASSS cuts down lengthy delays. The average time to resolve a dispute is just 3.59 days, compared to the UK average ADR resolution of 80 days (CTSI ADR Report, 2018). That’s 3.59 days from the receipt of the complaint to reaching a resolution between both parties, saving everyone a lot of time, money and stress.

3. It’s Fair

ADR is impartial and looks for a solution that satisfies both parties. Mediators are completely neutral and trained to see and hear both sides of the dispute. They look for the fairest and most reasonable outcome and propose that situation to both parties. Negotiations can take place if either party disagrees, but mediators will offer several options that are beneficial for all involved.

The risks in using an ADR mediation service

There are some risks to consider when using ADR, including:

  • There is the chance that ADR will be unsuccessful, albeit looking at QASSS’ resolution success rates, the chances are slim. However, should mediation prove unsuccessful, the complainant has the option to refer the complaint to the Ombudsman for a decision to be made.
  • A reluctant opponent. Just as you and the opposing party may fail to come to an agreement together without mediation, there is also the possibility that the opposing party is not willing to try mediation at all.

The ADR team at QASSS

Our Dispute Resolution Officers (DROs) are friendly and approachable. They have many years’ experience in successfully resolving numerous disputes. They are trained to listen and to provide a fair helping hand to both installers and consumers.

The team also works closely with companies to provide one-to-one support and industry-wide advice, helping to improve the way services are delivered and complaints are handled.

If you’d like to find more about our ADR services, call our specialist team on 0161 676 0919. They are always there to help, even if you just want a bit of advice.

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business continuity insurance

Delays in Business Continuity Insurance Pay-Outs

Business continuity insurance claims

Since our last update on issues around business continuity insurance, and despite the Supreme Court Ruling that insurers must pay out on business interruption policies for the first lockdown, many home improvement businesses are still waiting settlements and some fear their businesses could close permanently.

More than 60 insurance companies offered business interruption policies, but many refused to pay out during the first lockdown, arguing that only the most specialist policies had cover for such unprecedented events such as COVID-19.

However, a test case was bought by the Financial Conduct Authority which offered hope to thousands of businesses. Initially, the High Court ruled in favour of policyholders but went on to the Supreme Court after insurers and the FCA appealed certain aspects of the judgement.

On 15th January 2021, the Supreme Court found in favour of tens of thousands of businesses who should now receive a pay-out to cover business losses due to COVID-19. The total value of the business continuity claims is estimated to be over £900 million.

Despite the ruling, many businesses are getting frustrated at payment delays. The Association of British Insurers advises:

“Business interruption claims can, in general, be complex to assess and determine quantification.”

They also advise,

“Insurers will support their customers throughout the claims process, with dedicated teams of experts and appropriate resources to manage the volume and complexity of COVID-19 business interruption claims.”

Sheldon Mills, Executive Director, Consumers and Competition at the FCA, commented:

“Coronavirus is causing substantial loss and distress to businesses and many are under immense financial strain to stay afloat. This test case involved complex legal issues. Our aim throughout this test case has been to get clarity for as wide a range of parties as possible, as quickly as possible and today’s judgment decisively removes many of the roadblocks to claims by policyholders.

We will be working with insurers to ensure that they now move quickly to pay claims that the judgment says should be paid, making interim payments wherever possible. Insurers should also communicate directly and quickly with policyholders who have made claims affected by the judgment to explain next steps.”

So, what can you do if you think you have a business continuity insurance claim because of the pandemic but it has been declined?

If you are a home improvement company and you believe your insurance should provide cover for pandemics, please contact QASSS to access our network of experts.

At QASSS, we can introduce you to expert Loss Adjusting services, who can provide independent support regarding complex, major or difficult claims.

To find out more about this service, contact Scott Robinson our Commercial Director.


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Complaint impact cost

New – complaint impact cost calculator

It goes without saying that effective handling of complaints and good customer service has always been important. Given the rise of social media and review sites, we now have a wide choice of tools and channels to immediately call out poor service and ineffective complaint handling and share that message wide and far. But what is the complaint impact cost?

Do you know the true cost of unhappy customers?

We’ve introduced a NEW complaint cost calculator which you can download here. Input your business figures to calculate the impact on your company’s revenue and margin.

You also need to consider the cost of churn.

Here are a few headline stats:

  • Attracting a new customer is 6-7 times more expensive than retaining a current one (Salesforce).
  • Increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95% (Harvard Business School).
  • One-third of consumers say they would consider switching companies after just one instance of bad customer service (American Express).
  • A customer experience promoter has a lifetime value to a company that’s 600 to 1,400% that of a detractor (Bain).

Effective complaint handling

Quick and effective complaint handling will help you turn customer complainers into brand advocates, helping to increase brand loyalty and your company’s reputation.

Even the most vocal and complex complaints handled well, will see your customer advocacy increase across the board. By helping customers and solving their complaints, you will increase affinity which helps drive profitable brand growth.

Brand advocates are not just loyal, your brand advocates will do the job of promoting your business for you and drive reputation, which in turn can help drive revenue.

For more advice and tips, click here to download our top tips on complaint handling.

How we can help

At QASSS, we have many years of experience in complaint handling and dispute resolution and we understand just how critical good complaint handling is to the home improvement sector.

Our bespoke complaint handling and alternative dispute resolution services can help you save time, money and avoid reputational damage.

To find out how we can help, contact us on 0161 676 0919 or email [email protected]

root cause analysis

Using Root Cause Analysis When Managing Complaints And Disputes

According to an Ombudsman Services Report, it is estimated that UK businesses lose around £37 billion every year due to poor customer service and mismanagement of complaints. The importance of root cause analysis cannot be understated. Businesses should capture information on all customer interactions for analytical purposes, particularly when it comes to disputes or complaints, to give invaluable insights and feedback to help with business improvement and minimise future complaints.

Root cause analysis, along with other analysis, will help you better understand potentially wider problems and issues.

What is root cause analysis?

Root cause analysis is simply about getting to the ‘root cause’ of the problem, complaint, or dispute to help identify potential sources of complaints so that as a business, you can tackle the root causes of problems and correct or prevent those problems recurring.

It should be used systematically and in conjunction with other analysis and management information to help improve customer satisfaction and outcomes.

The importance of using root cause analysis

Operational data usually forms part of wider management information. However, many organisations do not look at root cause analysis, primarily because information around complaints and disputes were not identified and recorded consistently.

Without that information being captured, recorded and analysed, organisations do not have a way of monitoring symptoms of complaints and their root causes. Having this analysis enables businesses to identify new or recurring problems, put in preventative action plans and monitor customer experiences and outcomes to help improve the journey and business processes supporting this.

Organisations should use this detailed analysis to ensure customers are treated fairly, achieve the right customer outcomes and also consider what the right outcome should look like in each individual case.

Using root cause analysis

Root cause analysis is a great tool for continuous improvement, helping you understand customer issues in your business and what is causing them.

Once you have captured data and identified the start of a problem (do not wait until it becomes severe), the process is quite simple:

The process is quite simple:

  1. Identify the problem
  2. Define the problem
  3. Understand the problem
  4. Identify the root cause (Remember a problem could have more than one root cause.
  5. Put in place an effective corrective action plan and a preventive action plan too. Communicate the plan to all involved, including the reason for the action, benefits, timelines, training, documentation and processes required.
  6. Continuously monitor the system and have a follow-up plan to modify the solution and make additional improvements where necessary.
  7. Review the results and analyse whether the solutions have been effective to ensure the problem has been eradicated.
  8. Ascertain whether you can use the solution to help with other problems.

Complaint handling solutions

QASSS provides bespoke complaint handling and dispute resolution services to help improve your brand reputation, repeat business and save you time and money. To find out how we can help, contact us on 0161 676 0919 or email [email protected]

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green homes grant scheme

Green Homes Grant Scheme – Unspent Funds To be Scrapped

The Government expects the Green Homes Grant Scheme will help up to 600,000 households save up to £600 on their energy bills, but so far only 20,000 vouchers have been issued. The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has warned at its current rate it will take a staggering ten years to meet the target.

And in more shocking news, any of the initial £2bn promised that is not spent this year will be scrapped. Energy minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan stated in a parliamentary answer that this original funding was announced as a “short term stimulus for use in the 2020/21 financial year only”.

Labour shadow energy secretary Ed Miliband stated the reduction in funding as making “a mockery” of the government’s commitments on climate change and a green recovery.

“It is outrageous that the government is withdrawing funding promised to help insulate people’s homes. They are denying homeowners the energy improvements they need, denying installers the work they need and denying the country the green transition we need,” he continued.

The Green Homes Grant Scheme vouchers help fund up to two-thirds of the cost of the home energy improvements up to £5,000 (or up to £10,000 for low-income households). Initially set to finish in March 2021, the deadline was extended until the end of March 2022 to help meet demand.

According to an online survey run by the EAC in November, a shortage of accredited engineers has been a key challenge for those wishing to access the £2bn scheme. Installers must be registered with the government-endorsed quality scheme TrustMark to be able to participate in the scheme.

The concern over a lack of installers follows another report by the EAC warning that the government’s 600,000 heat pump installations a year by 2028 target may fail in part because of a lack of installation engineers.

A new discounted training scheme, the Renewable Heat Installer Training & Support Scheme (RHITSS), in partnership with MCS (the Microgeneration Certification Scheme) has recently been launched by GTEC to help installers gain the training and certifications required under the Green Homes Grant Scheme.

BEIS (The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) is also set to launch a skills initiative to ensure the UK has skilled workers in the low-carbon energy efficiency space going forwards. However, the £6.9 million skills competition is not set to launch until September, just seven months before the Green Homes Grant Scheme ends, and is therefore expected to have a limited impact on the availability of skilled installers to meet the demand of the scheme.

The EAC has called for an extension to the scheme. Chairman Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP said,

“Issuing vouchers is continuing at snail’s pace, with only 20,000 of the 600,000 target issued four months in – at this rate it will take over 10 years to fulfil the government’s expectation. Many of the builders and installers that can do the work are in limbo as a result of the time taken to approve applications, and perversely we have heard evidence some are having to lay off skilled workers as orders have been stalled pending confirmation of vouchers.”

In another damning review by the Guardian, it also found evidence from renewable energy installers that since preparing and spending money to expand their companies to meet the demands of the scheme, they are now faced with having to lay off staff because of the delays and chaos. Plus, many installers have been left out of pocket and in debt due to massive delays in payments. Some renewable energy companies are refusing to do more work until they are paid the tens of thousands of pounds owed for work dating back to last autumn.

EAC Chairman Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP has also called for a radical overhaul of the scheme,

“It must streamline the application process by removing unnecessary bureaucracy and must make sure the supply of skills meets the demand that 600,000 vouchers, and a further boost by the Chancellor in the March Budget, would drive. By doing so, it could make large strides towards meeting other government commitments, such as installing 600,000 heat pumps every year by 2028.”

bounce back loan scheme

Bounce Back Loan Scheme – Extra Time To Repay

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has confirmed changes to the Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) to allow businesses to repay the loans over a longer timescale.

The news will be welcome to many small businesses and the Chancellor hopes it will help stem the expected increase in insolvencies this year. Under the scheme, the government is liable for all of a bank’s losses if the indebted business collapses.

Around 1.4m small firms have borrowed an estimated £45bn using the Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS). Repayments are due to start in May but struggling firms will now be able to choose interest-only payments or payment holidays for up to 6 months.

Under the new plans, dubbed “Pay as You Grow” firms will also be able to extend their repayment plan from six to 10 years to reduce monthly instalments.

Struggling businesses will also be able to choose interest-only repayments or payment holidays for up to six months.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, said:

Businesses are continuing to feel the impact of extended disruption from Covid-19, and we’re determined to give them the backing and confidence they need to get through the pandemic.

That’s why we’re giving Bounce Back Loan borrowers breathing space to get back on their feet, through greater flexibility and time to repay their loans on their terms.

About the Bounce Back Loan Scheme

The scheme helps small and medium-sized businesses to borrow between £2,000 and up to 25% of their turnover. The maximum loan available is £50,000.

The government guarantees 100% of the loan and there won’t be any fees or interest to pay for the first 12 months. After 12 months the interest rate will be 2.5% a year.

The scheme is open to applications until 31 March 2021.

If you already have a Bounce Back Loan but borrowed less than you were entitled to, you can top up your existing loan to your maximum amount. You must request the top-up by 31 March 2021.

Extra time to repay

Lenders will proactively and directly inform their customers of Pay as You Grow from 8th February 2021, and borrowers should only expect correspondence three months before their first repayments are due. The initial length of the loan was six years but you can repay early without paying a fee. No repayments will be due during the first 12 months.

With the changes, businesses will now be provided with the following options:

  1. Extend the length of the loan from six years to ten (reducing monthly repayments by almost half)
  2. Make interest-only payments for six months, with the option to use this up to three times throughout the loan
  3. Pause repayments entirely for up to six months, meaning businesses can choose to make no payments on their loans until 18 months after they originally took them out. The option to pause repayments will now be available to all from their first repayment, rather than after six repayments have been made.

Eligibility for the Bounce Back Loan Scheme

You can apply for a loan if your business:

  • is based in the UK
  • was established before 1 March 2020
  • has been adversely impacted by the coronavirus

Those who cannot apply:

  • banks, insurers, and reinsurers (but not insurance brokers)
  • public-sector bodies
  • state-funded primary and secondary schools

If you’re already claiming funding:

You cannot apply if you’re already claiming under:

If you’ve already received a loan of up to £50,000 under one of these schemes you can transfer it into the Bounce Back Loan scheme. You have until 31 March 2021 to arrange this with your lender.

To help small businesses, we produced a post COVID-19 planning guide last year, including advice on finance, marketing, operations, people, IT, and customer service which can be found here.


customer experience

Improving Customer Experience – Key Recommendations

In part 2 of our look at the latest customer satisfaction trends from the Institute of Customer Service’s latest 2021 report, we look at the takeaway recommendations on how to improve customer experience and satisfaction rates.

Customer experience – 9 key recommendations

Following on from the survey of 10,000 customers in January 2021, the UK Customer Satisfaction Index report concluded 9 key recommendations to help improve customer service and respond to changing customer behaviours and needs:

  1. Make it easy for customers to contact you and access help
  2. Communicate and engage proactively with your customers
  3. Be responsive to customers’ personal context and situations
  4. Prioritise and plan for the needs of vulnerable customers
  5. Maintain a focus on delivery and logistics
  6. Take care of your employees’ wellbeing
  7. Develop a culture of agility and innovation
  8. Assess your customers’ changing needs and priorities
  9. Defocus on short and long term risk and performance

In this article, we take a deeper delve into the recommendations that help improve overall customer experience, customer interactions, complaint handling, and dispute management, all of which will help businesses improve their satisfaction score and ultimately generate more recommendations, trust, and loyalty (the statistics behind this can be found in our first article here).

Make it easier for customers to contact you and access help

The easiest way to help improve customer experience is to ensure that customers know how best to communicate with you about their issue or query, how quickly you will respond and how you will keep them informed.

  • Provide the widest practical range of channels for customers to use, ensuring you meet the needs of customers who are vulnerable and/or prefer offline methods.
  • Track the hand-offs between channels in a single customer journey. Diagnose “pain points” or inconsistencies that increase customer effort or prevent customers from achieving their objectives.
  • Measure your speed of response, time to resolve customer issues, and the number of experiences that are resolved right first time from the customer’s perspective.
  • Test and improve the quality and ease of use of your online experience.
  • Ensure your organisation is resourced with knowledgeable staff to enable customers to access help when they need it.
  • And last but most importantly, do not forget the importance of customers being able to speak directly to helpful and knowledgeable staff. Ensure there is always the opportunity to speak to a person at the first point of contact or when needed along the customer journey.

“There has clearly been a significant growth in online services, digital innovation and exciting new ways of delivering services. But it is also clear that human contact remains something that consumers need.”

Joanna Causon, Chief Executive, The Institute of Customer Service.

Proactive engagement and communication with customers

  • Provide clear information through all relevant channels about how to access services, support, and advice, and how to make a complaint, including any changes your organisation has put in place because of the pandemic.
  • Ensure the tone of your communications is direct, straightforward, and respectful. Avoid sounding either too corporate or overfamiliar. Be helpful and empathetic.
  • Allow customers the opportunity to provide feedback and raise concerns about their experiences with your organisation, including how to escalate a complaint and raise a dispute.
  • Set clear expectations about when and how you will keep customers informed about the progress of an issue. Make sure you honour a commitment to contact a customer.
  • Look at opportunities to communicate content that helps customers better manage their relationship with your organisation and improve their well-being more broadly, especially during COVID-19.

Be responsive to customers’ personal context and situations

  • Listen and empathise. Allow customers to explain their situation and how it has impacted them, especially if their personal circumstances have changed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Be sensitive, respectful, and reassuring. Acknowledge the feelings and emotions expressed by customers; demonstrate that you have listened and that you care.
  • Where appropriate, research a customer’s account history so that you have a full picture of their circumstances and interactions with you. If you need more information to reach a fair and appropriate outcome, encourage the customer to provide more information about their circumstances.
  • Focus on getting things right first time, both for customers and other colleagues, to avoid causing unnecessary effort or stress.
  • Use the flexibility that your organisation allows to reach outcomes and solutions that are tailored to an individual customer’s circumstances. Where necessary, challenge existing processes in order to generate solutions and make sure knowledgeable staff are empowered.
  • Personalise the customer experience to make it easier for customers and enhance integration across channels.

“As customers, we need human contact, empathy and reassurance, especially for issues that are complex or personally important.”

The customer experience for vulnerable customers

  • Take into account the needs of vulnerable customers in designing customer journeys, especially for changes in service put in place because of COVID-19.
  • Publish transparent policies and guidance about the help available to vulnerable customers.
  • Provide guidance on sensitive issues, such as physical, mental, or financial well-being that enable customers to self-serve and give them an option to identify themselves as being
    “vulnerable”. Remember, some customers who may never have considered themselves in this category may now well be classed as vulnerable.
  • Encourage customers to share information about their needs and personal circumstances so that your organisation is better able to help them and they will not need to repeat information in future.
  • Identify measures to put in place, to recognise the exceptional circumstances affecting customers.

The QASSS customer experience

With over 10 year’s experience in complaint handling and dispute resolution, we have been fortunate to have won various awards that recognise our approach to customer experience – providing speedy resolutions with knowledgeable, empathetic, and empowered staff.

QASSS only operates in the home improvement and renewable energy industry where we have leading sector expertise to allow the quickest speed of resolution in the UK (3.59 days on average as compared to the UK average of 80 days¹).

If you’d like to find out more about how we can help your business whether with complaint handling management, dispute resolution, or warranty claims, give us a call on 0161 676 0919 or email [email protected]



customer satisfaction UKCSI survey

Customer Satisfaction 2021 Results & Trends

The Institute of Customer Service has published its annual survey on customer satisfaction which reveals the changing trends due to COVID-19, many of which are likely to endure.

In this first article, we take an overview and look at the statistics and key headlines from the report.

Customer satisfaction in the UK 

Although 50% of the UKCSI measures monitoring satisfaction remained the same year on year, overall average satisfaction with complaint handling has fallen.

  • Customer satisfaction is at 76.8 (out of 100), 0.1 points lower than in January 2020, and the lowest level since July 2015.
  • 6% of customers experienced a problem with an organisation which is the highest level ever recorded.
  • Complaint handling experience also fell in terms of how organisations are dealing with problems and complaints to 57.4 (out of 100).
  • Customer ethos fell slightly to 76.2 (out of 100). This measured the extent to which customers perceive that organisations genuinely care. However, emotional connection and perception of ethics and ‘doing the right thing’ both rose slightly by 0.1 and 0.3 points respectively year on year.
  • Out of 271 organisations and organisation types in the survey, only 44 have improved compared to last year by 2 points, whilst 73 dropped by at least 2 points.

Use and customer satisfaction and experience by channel

Not surprisingly given COVID-19, customer experience by channel has significantly changed.

  • An increase in customer experiences was recorded across all channels (including phone, web, apps, email, text, and chat) except for in-person (which fell by 6.6%) and in writing.
  • Average customer satisfaction rates rose slightly across most channels but did decrease for email, apps, and webchat.

Purchasing habits and experiences

Again, rather unsurprisingly, consumer spending habits and behaviour have significantly changed over the last year, particularly the move towards online retail by older customers, and many of these habits are likely to endure in the future.

  • More than 32% of customers have bought more online with 82% saying this will continue next year.
  • Over 30% of customers have thought more carefully about what they spend, with over 88% indicating this will continue in 20200.
  • Interestingly, there has been an increase in customers choosing to shop with particular companies with nearly 16% choosing to spend with local, independent companies, over 11% spending with companies they trust, and over 6% choosing to spend with more ethical companies – all of which purchasing habits are trending at over 80% to continue next year.
  • However, customers’ finances will come into play more significantly this year with 21.3% of customers predicting they will be financially worse off in the next 6 months.

Customer satisfaction effects on business performance, loyalty, and reputation

Across the average, achieving a 9 or 10 (out of 10) for customer satisfaction has a much stronger effect than an 8 out of 10 in generating the highest levels of loyalty recommendations, trust, and reputation, and in some areas, the effect can be more than double which you can see from the results below.

customer satisfaction survey

The Institute also found anecdotal evidence from members that suggested companies saw an upsurge in customer satisfaction surveys they conducted in the weeks following the first lockdown. These indicated that customers appreciated the efforts companies were making to ensure continuity of service and proactive communications with customers who were perhaps more tolerant of problems at this stage.

Customer suggestions for improvement

Amongst the many suggestions by customers around areas of interaction with a company where improvements could be made, the following came out highest:

  • Make it easier to contact the right person to help (13.5%)
  • Better website navigation (12.9%)
  • More friendly/helpful staff (12.2%)
  • More knowledgeable staff (11.3%)
  • Speed of response and resolution (9.1%)

Customers who indicated their wellbeing was relatively low were more likely to prioritise making it easier to contact the right person, greater availability of staff, and speed of response and resolution.

How is the customer satisfaction survey compiled?

The Institute of Customer Service surveyed 10,000 customers in January 2021 across various sectors, both demographically and geographically representative of the UK population.

The full survey can be found here. Next week, we’ll explore takeaway recommendations in more detail.


QASSS has over 10 year’s experience helping businesses and their customers when things go wrong. Specialist in home improvement and renewable energy, QASSS provides award-winning complaint handling, alternative dispute resolution, remedial works and warranty claims management services.


Image by Tumisu from Pixabay.

glazing installers

Glazing sector sees strong performance

A recent survey by FENSA over 6,000 glazing installers conducted at the end of 2020 found that since the first lockdown in May, 74.6% of installers said that work levels have been good or very good since returning to work. This rose to 81.7% when questioned about demand from homeowners throughout the second half of the year.

Encouragingly, demand seemed to bounce back quite quickly in the sector. However, the market was not all rosy with many glazing installers experiencing issues and delays in the supply chain (over 94%).

Looking ahead, glazing installers were also buoyant about the future with nearly 67% of respondents feeling cautiously optimistic that demand levels would continue.

Despite the Green Homes Grant Scheme, designed to help fund energy-efficient measures, only including double glazing as only a secondary measure, demand for double glazing appears to be remaining strong with more and more homeowners looking to invest in home improvements.

Chris Beedel, FENSA Director of Membership, commented, “The industry is incredibly busy and FENSA Approved Installers are winning a huge amount of work…we remain cautiously optimistic.”

In another survey by Pilkington, natural light was one of the most sought-after features by homeowners, with 54% citing double-glazed windows in their dream home, with 17% wanting bi-folding doors, and 14% wanting skylight windows.

Managing Director, GGF Commercial Group, Anda Gregory, also commented on the glazing sector’s resilience, “Installers have been severely tested. From having their businesses closed almost overnight, followed by welcome but unexpected strong demand, they have risen to the occasion.”


Image: wirestock


home improvement projects

Home improvement projects in lockdown – nearly half still incomplete

New research from Outform shows that although we’re the country most likely to start home improvement projects during the various lockdowns, only 52% of them have been completed.

Over 3,000 people from across Europe and the US were questioned in the research which revealed that:

  • 26% of people turned to home improvement because they had more time
  • 22% cited that they carried out projects as noticed more issues around the home and garden whilst working from home
  • 57% undertook smaller projects such as painting or decorating
  • Americans were the least likely to want to do more DIY in 2021
  • 41% experienced frustrations around product availability and 49% of Brits were also frustrated due to limited product ranges.

Simon Hathaway, MD at Outform, commented:

Our study shows Brits are the most likely to take a pragmatic view of DIY during the pandemic. What’s true for all those canvassed – Brits, French, Germans, and Americans – is that people working from home had more time and saw problems they hadn’t spotted before, and they did something about it.

It also suggests that home improvement brands and retailers are going to have to redouble their marketing efforts if they don’t want to be caught up in a potential wave of DIY fatigue in 2021. A significant number of us are going to continue to be home-based, not least because of Lockdown 3, so keeping them excited and engaged with the idea of making those homes better – investing in interactive technologies and joined-up, multichannel strategies will be essential to achieve this.

Encouraging for the home improvement sector is that nearly a third of Brits (29%) are planning work in 2021.

Research released last year by also revealed that in the last five years, we’ve spent over £10,000 on home improvements with nearly a quarter of that being spend on the kitchen, closely followed by the living room and loft.

Further, during lockdown, Brits have spent on average £1,210 on home improvement projects with the top rooms being the living room, office, and kitchen/dining room. The biggest spenders by region were Newcastle, Bristol, London, Edinburgh, and Belfast.

For more articles and insights on home improvement projects, click here.



  1. Outform
  2. Compare the Market


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ADR legal obligations

Understanding Alternative Dispute Resolution Obligations

Although Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is not always compulsory when resolving a dispute in the home improvement sector, there remain some important obligations for those who do and do not, provide ADR.

Despite the current lack of legal obligation, many traders still choose to be signed up to an ADR provider due to the many benefits of using alternative dispute resolution. When an installer is using an ADR provider, such as QASSS, the ADR provider will arrange alternative dispute resolution, should the consumer choose to use ADR to resolve their complaint.

When is ADR compulsory?

  • In certain sectors such as finance and property.
  • For renewable energy installers installing under government schemes such as the Renewable Heat Incentive. It is an industry requirement that an installer is a member of an approved code. These codes will require their members to use ADR.
  • Certain trade bodies or members associations will require their members to take part in ADR.

What are the installers’ obligations around ADR?

Despite the lack of legal requirement for installers to use ADR when dealing with a consumer complaint, they are still certain obligations and companies are required to provide some information to their customers regarding alternative dispute resolution. When the installer has exhausted their in-house complaint-handling procedure, they must provide their consumer with;

  • An official statement that the trader has failed to settle the customer’s complaint,
  • The name and website address of an ADR provider that could deal with the complaint, if the consumer wishes to use ADR,
  • Details of whether the installer is obliged or willing to undergo an ADR procedure operated by the ADR provider they have supplied details of.

This information must be provided by letter or email.

What should be put on the website?

Details of an ADR provider must be present on the company’s website where ADR is compulsory. The website must contain;

  • Name of the ADR provider
  • Website address of the ADR provider

The details of the ADR provider must also be included as a part of their general contract terms.

Should an installer have an ADR provider when it is not compulsory, it is still recommended that these details are present on the website so that customers know they have access to ADR, should they need it. However, this is not a legal requirement.

What does QASSS do?

QASSS is a business support service to companies and organisations within home improvement sectors (glazing, building, renewables, and general home improvement). We offer industry-leading CTSI approved alternative dispute resolution to these companies, bespoke to their business needs.

We have also launched a brand new product giving businesses access to our award winning ADR service at a nominal and all-inclusive price. Plus, it’s cashflow neutral too! Click here to find out more about Dispute Assist.

To find out more and discuss your ADR requirements please contact us on 0161 676 0919 or at [email protected]

QASSS Statistics

  • QASSS have a success rate of resolving 98.4% of complaints within the mediation process, meaning that most cases avoid the need to go to an Ombudsman or court.
  • The average closure time for disputes is 3.59 days compared to the UK average ADR resolution of 80 days (CTSI ADR Statistics, 2018).


Image by Pixabay


Behind the Scenes: A Day in the Life of a Mediator

Impartiality is the fundamental requirement of a mediator; whose role consists of resolving a conflict between two parties who disagree. Their role is not to take sides but to reach a fair conclusion that both parties are happy with. Mediation and alternative dispute resolution (ADR) involve much more than appears on the surface so we’ve put together an outline of a typical day in the life of a mediator to show what happens behind the scenes.

A Typical Day as a Mediator

For a mediator working in the home improvement and renewable energy sectors, their typical day begins early and their daily schedule will usually include the following:

  • Setting realistic expectations – if a consumer has been left disadvantaged, their first point of call is often asking for compensation. Although this might provide an instant benefit to the consumer, it is not always the most appropriate solution. A mediator needs to find out the details from both parties and dig deeper to find out what the real problem is, not just what would provide instant gratification.
  • Communicating with opposing parties – communication is key in mediation and ultimately what the service is based upon. Mediators will spend many hours per day speaking with consumers that have made a complaint and the trader they are complaining about. Often a trader might not realise the stress that they have caused one of their customers and so mediators can communicate about the complaint calmly and factually.
  • Investigation – mediators need to investigate the claims being made to ensure that they fully understand the situation the consumer and the tradesperson are in so that they can begin the mediation process courteously, professionally and above all, quickly.
  • Resolving – the purpose of mediation is to resolve conflict and agree on a resolution with both parties and therefore a mediator will spend a lot of time reaching the right resolution. This is arguably one of the most satisfying parts of the role of a mediator, as they are often able to present a resolution that will satisfy both parties and eradicate the stress and strong emotions they may have been feeling before and during the process.

A Human Approach

Much like in other job roles, incorporating a human element into your work remains an important element. Although mediation isn’t based on relationship building between the mediator and the separate parties, it does help those involved to know they are being listened to, heard and respected in a human manner. If mediators approached conflicts robotically, mediation wouldn’t be as successful as it is.

A human element in conflict helps to create a safe environment for those involved and allows them to feel at ease, knowing that their complaint will be handled fairly and with compassion. Approaches like these are what help to create a speedy and successful resolution. To find out more about the advantages of using mediation, click here to view our recent blog.

The proof is in the pudding – QASSS’s recent statistics boast a 98.4% complaint resolution rate with these being resolved in a matter of 3.59 days.

QASSS’s Mediators

The mediation team at QASSS is made up of experienced dispute resolution officers who work hard to reach a fair resolution for all parties involved. They are a reliable, friendly and positive team.

“When you work in mediation, every day brings a new and exciting challenge. I love the satisfaction I feel when I have resolved a complaint. Resolving complaints is so rewarding because you know that you have lifted the huge burden from the parties involved, allowing them to move on in life and with business.

We know that evert case we receive is resolvable, so we aim to instil our passion and positivity into the whole process and help give the consumer and business peace of mind knowing there is no stone left unturned.”

Tracy Dilworth, Dispute Resolution Officer.

Find out more

QASSS is CTSI approved and provide industry-leading resolution expertise, continually working to improve services and standards across the sector.If you want to find out more about mediation and how we can help your business save time and money with dispute resolution, get in touch by calling 0161 676 0919 or full out our contact form. 



7 reasons to use mediation

Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and is a process to settle disputes without the need for litigation. Mediation can help resolve issues after a consumer and business has reached a deadlock.

So why use mediation to resolve a dispute?

Alternative Dispute Resolution Process   1) It can save you money

Going to court can be an extremely costly process when you consider court fees and legal fees. Depending on the outcome of the case, you may also be ordered to pay the legal costs of the other party if you have unreasonably refused mediation in the process.

QASSS Remedial Works Management   2) It’s quick

ADR is quick, particularly where mediation is involved. ADR providers do have varying average resolution times, so it’s important to inquire about this beforehand.

Our average dispute resolution time is industry-leading at 3.59 days, whereas the UK average ADR resolution time is currently 80 days. (CTSI ADR Report, 2018).

QASSS Partnerships   3) It will save you time and resource

Court proceedings can take up a huge amount of time and resource in both preparation and attendance. Businesses can also realise operational efficiencies using ADR services, freeing up considerable management time.

mediation fairness   4) It’s fair

Mediators are trained to factually assess the dispute and resolve the dispute with an outcome that satisfies both parties. Mediators do not have full control of the outcome and therefore enable the parties to reach a mutually agreed and fair outcome together.

customer satisfaction   5) It helps preserve customer relationships and drive better outcomes

ADR can be a less adversarial and hostile way to resolve a dispute. It allows both parties to be heard and have the opportunity to understand each other’s point of view. ADR is less confrontational which can not only reduce stress for both parties, it can also be an important consideration for a more positive ongoing relationship.

confidential mediation   6) It’s confidential

Court proceedings are in the public domain whereas ADR can be kept confidential by agreement, safeguarding your reputation. Confidentiality usually extends to what happens in the mediation and any settlement arising out of it.

Alternative Dispute Resolution Process   7) It’s flexible

Alternative dispute resolution can be much more flexible in terms of outcomes. It can achieve outcomes that a court could not order, or to get a result that both parties think is fairer than that dictated by law.


Latest data shows complaint volumes remain high in the home improvement sector

Latest data shows continuing high complaint volumes with Citizens Advice dealing with over 32,000 consumer issues and complaints relating to the home improvement sector over the last 12 months to September 2020.

What is also disappointing for the sector is that out of all defined categories in consumer goods and services, ‘building repairs and improvements’ came second with over 8,500 issues alone. Top was practical energy efficiency advice with over 9,000 issues.

The statistics also show the most complained about issues within the building repairs and improvements category. We have put together the top 5 by complaints volume, with complaints and redress being accountable for nearly 5,000 complaints and faulty, dangerous, and unsafe services received over 2,000 complaints from October 2019 to September 2020.

QASSS provides complaint handling solutions to home improvement and renewable energy companies. Due to our heritage in operating three home improvement consumer protection scheme (HIESHICS or DGCOS)s, we have highly trained complaint handlers to conduct first-line (or frontline) complaint handling services for clients delivering either a ‘light touch’ service or fully branded on a ‘white label’ basis.


Paint photo created by welcomia –

update business insurance

The latest update on Business Interruption Insurance – September 2020

Back in May, it was reported that the insurance industry had been under increasing pressure for their refusal to pay out Business Interruption Insurance claims to companies that have been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic. By July, in an update, a consolidated list of the disputed business interruption cases was included in a test case instigated by the Financial Conduct Authority. The court action was brought about in order to determine whether the pandemic should prompt payments to policyholders.

The judgement update

Fast forward to September and the high court has now ruled in favour of business policyholders and that in the context of COVID-19, many are in fact eligible for insurance payments under the terms of their business interruption policies.

The court has ruled that payouts were prompted under “non-damage” clauses which included;

  • diseases and,
  • denial of access to business premises.

Policyholders will have to carefully read the 160-page judgement to see how their policy wording compares to the principles that have now been confirmed by the court.

Partner and global head of insurance disputes at the FCA’s law firm Herbert Smith Freehills, Paul Lewis, commented, “This is a really significant judgment. It brings guidance to how business interruption insurance wordings should operate in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has had such a devastating effect on businesses across the country. The decision should bring welcome news to a significant number of policyholders.”

How many policyholders will be affected?

370,000 business policyholders could be affected by this, according to FCA estimates.

What should home improvement companies do if their claim has been declined?

If your claim has been rejected by your insurer, but you believe your Business Interruption Insurance does provide cover for pandemics, please contact us for guidance. At QASSS, we can help with the claims process and can arrange access for home improvement companies to an expert Loss Adjusting service, should you need independent advice regarding complex, major or difficult claims.

To find out more about this service, contact Scott Robinson our Commercial Director or call 0161 676 0919.


Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Winter Economy Plan

New business support measures announced today in the Winter Economy Plan

Delivering a speech in Parliament, the Chancellor today announced a package of measures in his Winter Economy Plan to protect jobs and help businesses through the uncertain months ahead as we continue to tackle the spread of the virus.

The package includes:

  • A new Jobs Support Scheme to protect millions of returning workers
  • Extending the Self Employment Income Support Scheme
  • Vat and tax help
  • Help for businesses in repaying government-backed loans.

Click here to read the full Winter Economy Plan.

Support for workers

A new Job Support Scheme will be introduced from 1 November to protect viable jobs in businesses who are facing lower demand over the winter months due to coronavirus.

Under the scheme, which will run for six months and help keep employees attached to the workforce, the government will contribute towards the wages of employees who are working fewer than normal hours due to decreased demand.

Employers will continue to pay the wages of staff for the hours they work – but for the hours not worked, the government and the employer will each pay one third of their equivalent salary.

This means employees who can only go back to work on shorter time will still be paid two thirds of the hours for those hours they can’t work.

In order to support only viable jobs, employees must be working at least 33% of their usual hours. The level of grant will be calculated based on the employee’s usual salary, capped at £697.92 per month.

The Job Support Scheme will be open to businesses across the UK even if they have not previously used the furlough scheme, with further guidance being published in due course.

It is designed to sit alongside the Jobs Retention Bonus and could be worth over 60% of average wages of workers who have been furloughed – and are kept on until the start of February 2021. Businesses can benefit from both schemes in order to help protect jobs.

Extension of the Self Employment Income Scheme

In addition, the Government is continuing its support for millions of self-employed individuals by extending the Self Employment Income Support Scheme Grant (SEISS). An initial taxable grant will be provided to those who are currently eligible for SEISS and are continuing to actively trade but face reduced demand due to coronavirus. The initial lump sum will cover three months’ worth of profits for the period from November to the end of January next year. This is worth 20% of average monthly profits, up to a total of £1,875.

An additional second grant, which may be adjusted to respond to changing circumstances, will be available for self-employed individuals to cover the period from February 2021 to the end of April – ensuring our support continues right through to next year. This is in addition to the more than £13 billion of support already provided for over 2.6 million self-employed individuals through the first two stages of the Self Employment Income Support Scheme – one of the most generous in the world.

VAT and tax help

Up to half a million business who deferred their VAT bills will be given more breathing space through the New Payment Scheme, which gives them the option to pay back in smaller instalments. Rather than paying a lump sum in full at the end of March next year, they will be able to make 11 smaller interest-free payments during the 2021-22 financial year.

On top of this, around 11 million self-assessment taxpayers will be able to benefit from a separate additional 12-month extension from HMRC on the “Time to Pay” self-service facility, meaning payments deferred from July 2020, and those due in January 2021, will now not need to be paid until January 2022.

Giving businesses flexibility to pay back loans

The burden will be lifted on more than a million businesses who took out a Bounce Back Loan through a new Pay as You Grow flexible repayment system. This will provide flexibility for firms repaying a Bounce Back Loan.

This includes extending the length of the loan from six years to ten, which will cut monthly repayments by nearly half. Interest-only periods of up to six months and payment holidays will also be available to businesses. These measures will further protect jobs by helping businesses recover from the pandemic.

We also intend to give Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme lenders the ability to extend the length of loans from a maximum of six years to ten years if it will help businesses to repay the loan.

In addition, the Chancellor also announced he would be extending applications for the government’s coronavirus loan schemes that are helping over a million businesses until the end of November.

As a result, more businesses will now be able to benefit from the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme, the Bounce Back Loan Scheme and the Future Fund. This change aligns all the end dates of these schemes, ensuring that there is further support in place for those firms who need it.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, said about the Winter Economy Plan:

Our approach to the next phase of support must be different to that which came before.

The primary goal of our economic policy remains unchanged – to support people’s jobs – but the way we achieve that must evolve.


Local councils have recorded a 40% increase in scams since the start of lockdown

Recent data reveals that local councils have recorded a 40% increase in scams since the start of the UK lockdown. This is further backed up by Citizens Advice who believe that 1 in 3 people have been targeted by a coronavirus scammer.

There are many ways that fraudsters manipulate victims from impersonating well-known subscription services to fake government emails. Sadly we have also heard reports of fraudsters posing as NHS test and trace staff to gain personal information and details from people.

According to British banks, the top 10 scams to be wary of are:

  1. Fake government emails offering grants
  2. Scam emails offering access to “Covid-19 relief funds”
  3. Council tax reduction emails that include a fake government website
  4. Emails where help is being offered to apply for universal credit
  5. Phishing emails claiming that the recipient has been in contact with someone who has been diagnosed with coronavirus
  6. False adverts for coronavirus-related products (e.g. hand sanitiser)
  7. TV licensing emails claiming you are eligible for six months free
  8. Emails that ask you to update your TV subscription services payments
  9. Fake social media profiles
  10. Fake investment opportunities that are advertised on social media

All these often contain links that steal personal and financial information in some way. For example, filling out your bank details or filling in a form about yourself that contains personal and sensitive data.

Please stay vigilant and aware. If an email look suspicious, 9 times out of 10 it probably is.

Find out more on the QASSS website on how to stay safe amid phishing attacks.

Image by Muhammad Ribkhan from Pixabay

Government’s Getting Building Fund

A £900 million Getting Building Fund was announced earlier this month by Government. The fund aims to support the delivery of shovel-ready infrastructure projects as well as creating more local jobs and supporting the green recovery across the UK.

The fund is being targeted in areas that are currently facing the biggest economic challenges because of the coronavirus crisis.

The funding will enable:

  • town and city centre modernisation through targeted infrastructure investments unleashing their longer-term economic potential;
  • investment in physical connectivity to improve the functioning of the local economy;
  • investment in innovation ecosystem including through improvements to research and development facilities driving up business productivity;
  • improvements to human capital; and
  • improving digital connectivity, in order to support economic performance, particularly in more isolated areas.

Over 300 successful projects in England will receive a share of the £900 million fund. The projects will be delivered through LEPs.

The Getting Building Fund is a part of a larger £1.3bn investment package.

To view the summary of allocations and details of allocations by area please click here.

People photo created by freestockcenter –


UK’s worst areas for cybercrime

The worst hit areas for cybercrime across the UK have been revealed in a recent report. Scammers have always been prevalent in and around the country but with COVID-19, unfortunately, the volume of scams has soared and sadly, more and more scammers are also targeting the most vulnerable.

Where are the worst areas for cybercrime in the UK?

In order the top twenty worst hit areas include:

  1. Cambridgeshire
  2. North Wales
  3. Cumbria
  4. Thames Valley
  5. Norfolk
  6. Nottinghamshire
  7. Suffolk
  8. Bedfordshire
  9. Leicestershire
  10. North Yorkshire
  11. West Yorkshire
  12. Merseyside
  13. West Midlands
  14. Humberside
  15. Kent
  16. Warwickshire
  17. Greater Manchester
  18. South Yorkshire
  19. Cleveland
  20. Dorset

The data, analysed from the Office for National Statistics and police, show that Cambridgeshire has seen a 32% increase of cybercrime over the past 3 years, making it the worst area in the UK for cybercrime. The full report can be found here. On top of that, around 85% of organisations report phishing and social engineering attacks every year.

Michelle Stark, Sales and Marketing Director at, which compiled the report, commented: “It’s sad to see cybercrime increasing so rapidly across the UK. With consumers digitally connected with many local and national businesses, staying safe online is critical to protect your bank balance and keep your data secure. We urge all consumers to check the site is secure before they enter any data, and if uncertain, never proceed with inputting details.”

But with cybercrime becoming more prevalent and less obvious, how can you protect yourself online? QASSS have put together some guides on cyber security to help you stay safe online which you can find by clicking the links below:

How to avoid phishing attacks
Password protection
Mobile technology
Protection from malware
Backing up data

IT solutions for your business

We truly understand the needs of home improvement and renewable companies and offer proactive and bespoke IT solutions to help businesses with infrastructure, cyber security, end-user computing and management and web management.

QASSS is a Cyber Essentials accredited business and able to provide businesses with support and insights on how to best manage security with their organisation. If you would like advice and support, contact us on 0330 335 3354 or email [email protected]

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

green homes grant

Green Homes Grants Scheme Update

Some details of the Green Homes Grants scheme are still being defined by the government. In the meantime, here is the latest update following a briefing today.

Accredited suppliers

Quality assurance is at the heart of the Green Homes Grants scheme and the government has now clarified that tradespeople who want to install under the scheme must be TrustMark accredited, and also, MCS certified for heat pump and solar thermal installations.

HIES (The Home Insulation and Energy Systems Quality Assured Contractors Scheme), operated by QASSS, is a Trustmark scheme operator so will be able to support the Trustmark accreditation process.

The accreditation that tradespeople must acquire before installing any work under the scheme will give homeowners peace of mind that their installer is approved and accredited thus ensuring high standards and thorough consumer protection.

Why is the scheme so important?

This scheme will urge consumers to engage with TrustMark Registered Businesses to have energy efficient works carried out in and around their homes, bringing increased jobs and revenue to businesses.

Measures covered by the scheme

Homeowners and social and private landlords will need to use their voucher to install at least one of the following, which they will receive before works commence:

First line measures:

  • Solid wall, under-floor, cavity wall, loft, flat roof, room in roof or park home insulation; or
  • Air source or ground source heat pump or solar thermal (where the home is suitably insulated).

Households can also use their voucher for further energy saving measures, up to the value of 50% of the voucher (and capped at the amount of the government contribution to the primary measures). These include one or more of the following:

Second line measures:

  • Draught proofing: draught-proofing your home (for example around windows and doors) can block up unwanted gaps that let cold air in and warm air out.
  • Windows and doors: double/triple glazing (where replacing single glazing), secondary glazing (in addition to single glazing), energy efficient replacement doors.
  • Heating controls and insulation: appliance thermostats, hot water tank thermostats, hot water tank insulation, smart heating controls, zone controls, delayed start thermostat, thermostatic radiator valves.

To note, secondary measures cannot be undertaken in isolation but can be installed alongside a primary measure.

More about the grants

The government are funding up energy efficient home improvement grants for over 600,000, supporting over 100,000 jobs in the sector

  • Homeowners and landlords can apply for a voucher that funds up to two-thirds of the cost of hiring tradespeople to upgrade the energy performance of their homes – up to a maximum contribution of £5,000. It could help save families up to £600 a year on their energy bills.
  • Low income and vulnerable households, including park homeowners and those on certain benefits, will be eligible for a grant covering up to 100% of the cost, up to £10,000.
  • The scheme opens later this month and the closing date is 31st March 2021. We are awaiting final confirmation, but it is expected that homeowners and landlords could have up to 6 months thereafter to complete the work and claim the voucher.
  • Once the works are agreed, vouchers will start to be issued from the end of September so work can commence.

 Consumer website

The Simple Energy Advice (SEA) service will be the main source of information for consumers.

By the end of the month, homeowners will be able to access advice and support on how best to improve the energy efficiency of their homes and the website will have the searchable list of accredited tradespeople who are authorised to carry out works under the scheme.

People photo created by prostooleh –


Dispute resolution vs going to court

A study* by BEIS (the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy) highlights the positive benefits of using alternative dispute resolution (ADR) on complaint handling practices.

Traders who have used litigation do not appear to have become more responsive to customer complaints following their experience with the courts, as compared to traders who used dispute resolution.

“While the court process appears to have led to a number of traders being more cautious and clearer regarding their offering (with little direct impact on customer service), interviews with traders who used ADR bear witness to a generally positive impact of the ADR process on business practices, especially related to increased consumer focus and the process.”

During interviews with businesses who had used ADR to resolve a consumer dispute, collaboration with the ADR was mentioned as positively influencing the consumer relationship and stopping clients who endlessly try to escalate a case. The interviewees also indicated the ADR was professional, quick, lead to fair outcomes and helped resolve deadlocks. One company indicated that both the ADR provider and the trader had mutually learned from each other as good practices were exchanged.

Impact on traders – the court process

  • Results from the survey suggest that the majority of traders generally do not change their complaints-handling processes nor their business practices after their experience with the courts.
  • The study found that 79% of traders did not change their complaints-handling processes following a court case.
  • Of those who did make changes, very few indicated that they now offer greater guidance to customers on dealing with complaints. Instead, changes revolved around minimising misunderstandings (i.e. the trader is more careful with wording on quotes/changed terms and conditions/making customers aware).
  • The study suggests that the court process tends to make traders more cautious and clearer regarding their offered goods and/or services and the terms and conditions of purchase.

Impact on traders – the ADR process

  • The survey suggests that traders who use the ADR process adopt a faster and more customer-oriented approach.
  • Collaboration with the ADR process was mentioned as positively influencing the consumer relationship and stopping clients who endlessly try to escalate a case.
  • ADR providers help traders to improve their business practices and complaints-handling procedures. Traders that have used ADR mentioned the following impacts:
    • Becoming more customer-oriented
    • Addressing issues faster
    • Contributing to increased customer focus, which ultimately drove customer satisfaction
    • Adapting processes and the training
    • Investigating the very root cause of the problem their customers are experiencing
  • The survey also showed that 43% of ADR providers offer guidance to help businesses improve their practices and complaints processes, while 30% offer workshops or training courses

It is clear that not only does ADR have a more positive impact on complaint-handling that going through the court process, but businesses also indicated that

“ADR was professional, quick, lead to fair outcomes and able to resolve deadlocks.”

And it’s not only businesses that benefit. The study also highlighted that 62% of consumers who used ADR found the process simple, quicker and cheaper than using the courts to resolve a dispute.

Wider Benefits of using ADR

  • Financial savings vs increasing litigation costs
  • Savings on time and being able to free up internal resources
  • Helping protect and improve reputation
  • Driving better outcomes for both businesses and consumers
  • Ensuring fairness and impartiality
  • Avoiding costly compensation

QASSS offers award-winning and industry-leading dispute resolution services to the home improvement and renewable energy sectors. To find out about our services, read more here, or contact Laura Holmes, Service Delivery manager on 0161 676 0919 or email [email protected]


*Resolving consumer disputes. Alternative dispute resolution and the court system. Final Report.


Image by ZeroTolerance from Pixabay

technology grant

£5,000 small business technology grant

The government has announced a new £20m IT funding package for small businesses to use to upgrade their technology, equipment and hire professional advisors.

The technology grant has been announced to help small businesses through the coronavirus crisis. These businesses can access between £1,000 and £5,000 when applying for the business technology grant.

The grant can be spent on:

  • Accountants
  • Human resources (HR)
  • Financial
  • IT and digital
  • Legal
  • Minor equipment to adapt or adopt new technology

The £20m IT funding package is being administered by the Government’s 38 regional growth hubs which can be found here.

Simon Clarke, Regional growth minister, commented, “We have always said that we would stand behind our businesses and communities as we rebuild following the coronavirus pandemic. This new funding does exactly that.

Businesses will be able to use these new grants to pay for the expertise, equipment, and technology they need to adapt, recover and rebuild.

Small and medium-sized businesses are the beating heart of communities; they provide employment and contribute significantly to local economies and we are determined to give them the support they need to continue to thrive.”

For those in the home improvement industry, QASSS provides an IT support solution that delivers a range of bespoke and innovative services including infrastructure services, web management network and security, and end-user computing and management. For further information on how this can be used to help you and your business maximise the IT support package announced by government, please contact Nisar Raja, IT Manager on 0330 335 3354, or email [email protected]

Image by Karolina Grabowska from Pixabay

The Green Homes Grant and “Buy to Let” Landlords

With the announcement of the impending Green Homes Grant in September, many homeowners and installers are gearing up ready for installations. However, it’s not only homeowners that should be assessing the energy efficiency of their properties but Buy to Let landlords are included and should be planning now to see if their properties need to be improved too.

With only just over one month until the application process opens for the Green Homes Grant scheme, Buy to Let landlords need to be assessing their properties now, or in the very near future, as the application process is expected to receive high volumes.

Landlords are urged to focus on the works that can be done with the grant funding.

Online applications made by landlords can only be passed to accredited suppliers or “registered local tradesmen” to carry out the works under the scheme.

The grant scheme will fund at least two-thirds of the cost for energy efficient measures up to a maximum of £5,000 for landlords who need to improve the energy efficiency of their properties. Currently, landlords cannot let their properties out if they have an energy performance rating of F or G (unless they qualify for an exemption).

The Chancellor stated that he hopes 600,000 homes will be improved with the grant. The full details of the grants have not yet been published however the information provided so far suggests that the grants will only last for one year so landlords are urged to review their properties as soon as possible to take advantage of the scheme.

The government also hopes that this will create a further 100,000 jobs in the “Green Sector” – one of the important reasons behind the grant, to boost a ‘green recovery’ as we come out of lockdown.

Image by falco from Pixabay

Over 50% Of Homeowners Want to Apply for the Green Homes Grant

Latest research suggests that more than half of homeowners in the UK are planning to apply for the Green Homes Grant, the government’s latest scheme.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the grant in July’s budget as a part of the government’s plans to get the economy moving again. The grant will allow homeowners and landlords to apply for vouchers from a £2 billion scheme to make their homes more energy-efficient and create local jobs.

MoneySuperMarket surveyed 2,000 people about the Green Homes Grant which revealed that;

  • 51% of homeowners are planning to apply for the scheme and,
  • 26% of homeowners are seriously considering applying for the scheme

The grant will cover at least two-thirds of the cost for energy efficient measures such as insulation and glazing up to £5k. For low income households, the vouchers will cover the full cost up to £10k.

The scheme opens in September and we are awaiting further clarity from the government on what type of energy efficient measures are covered under the scheme and also their definition of ‘accredited suppliers’ to ensure consumers are protected.

The Green Homes Grant scheme is just one part of a wider “green” recovery plan proposed by the Government including £1bn towards making public buildings more energy efficient.

Ciarán Harkin, Managing Director of QASSS, comments, “It’s great to see the government putting a focus on energy efficient homes and putting money into the industry to help homeowners and installers at this difficult time. However, more detail on the scheme is urgently needed.”

House photo created by creativeart –

Phishing and cyber security

Improving cyber security – avoiding phishing attacks

As part of our guides on cyber security, we’ve put together top tips on how to avoid phishing attacks based on advice from the NCSC (National Cyber Security Centre).


In a typical phishing attack, scammers send fake emails to thousands of people, asking for sensitive information (such as bank details), or containing links to bad websites. They might try to trick you into sending money, steal your details to sell on, or they may have political or ideological motives for accessing your organisation’s information.

Phishing emails are getting harder to spot, and some will still get past even the most observant users. Whatever your business, however big or small it is, you will receive phishing attacks at some point. This section contains some easy steps to help you identify the most common phishing attacks but be aware that there is a limit to what you can expect your users to do.

Tip 1: Configure accounts to reduce the impact of successful phishing attacks

You should configure your staff accounts in advance using the principle of ‘least privilege’. This means giving staff the lowest level of user rights required to perform their jobs, so if they are the victim of a phishing attack, the potential damage is reduced.

To further reduce the damage that can be done by malware or loss of login details, ensure that your staff do not browse the web or check emails from an account with Administrator privileges. An Administrator account is a user account that allows you to make changes that will affect other users. Administrators can change security settings, install software and hardware, and access all files on the computer. An attacker having unauthorised access to an Administrator account can be far more damaging than accessing a standard user account.

Use two factor authentication (2FA) on your important accounts such as email. This means that even if an attacker knows your passwords, they still will not be able to access that account.

Tip 2: Think about how you operate

Consider ways that someone might target your organisation, and make sure your staff all understand normal ways of working (especially regarding interaction with other organisations), so that they’re better equipped to spot requests that are out of the ordinary.

Common tricks include sending a false invoice, so when the attachment is opened, malware is automatically installed (without your knowledge) on your computer. Another is to trick staff into transferring money or information by sending emails that look authentic.

Think about your usual practices and how you can help make these tricks less likely to succeed. For example:

  • Do staff know what to do with unusual requests, and where to get help?
  • Ask yourself whether someone impersonating an important individual (a customer or manager) via email should be challenged (or have their identity verified another way) before action is taken.
  • Do you understand your regular business relationships? Scammers will often send phishing emails from large organisations (such as banks) in the hope that some of the email recipients will have a connection to that company. If you get an email from an organisation you don’t do business with, treat it with suspicion.
  • Think about how you can encourage and support your staff to question suspicious or just unusual requests, even if they appear to be from important individuals. Having the confidence to ask ‘is this genuine?’ can be the difference between staying safe or a costly mishap.

Tip 3: Check for the obvious signs of phishing

Many phishing emails still fit the mould of a traditional attack, so look for the following warning signs:

  • Many phishing scams originate overseas and often the spelling, grammar and punctuation are poor. Others will try and create official-looking emails by including logos and graphics. Is the design (and quality) what would you’d expect from a large organisation?
  • Is it addressed to you by name, or does it refer to ‘valued customer’, or ‘friend’, or ‘colleague’? This can be a sign that the sender does not actually know you, and that it is part of a phishing scam.
  • Does the email contain a veiled threat that asks you to act urgently? Be suspicious of words like ‘send these details within 24 hours’ or ‘you have been a victim of crime, click here immediately’.
  • Look out for emails that appear to come from a high-ranking person within your organisation, requesting a payment is made to a particular bank account. Look at the sender’s name. Does it sound legitimate, or is it trying to mimic someone you know?
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. It is most unlikely that someone will want to give you money, or give you access to some secret part of the internet.

Tip 4: Report all phishing attacks

Make sure that your staff are encouraged to ask for help if they think that they might have been a victim of phishing, especially if they’ve not raised it before. It’s important to take steps to scan for malware and change passwords as soon as possible if you suspect a successful attack has occurred.

Do not punish staff if they get caught out. It discourages people from reporting in the future and can make them so fearful that they spend excessive time and energy scrutinising every email they receive. Both these things cause more harm to your business in the long run.

If you believe that your organisation has been the victim of online fraud, scams or extortion, you should report this through the Action Fraud website. Action Fraud is the UK’s national fraud and cyber crime reporting centre. If you are in Scotland contact Police Scotland on 101.

Tip 5: Keep up to date with attackers

Attackers are always trying different methods of attack, even when tools like automatic email protection have prevented previous attempts, therefore try and stay one step ahead and keep on top of the techniques used by attackers.

Consider signing up for the free Action Fraud Alert service to receive direct, verified, accurate information about scams and fraud in your area by email, recorded voice and text message.

Monitor the advice from your local Police Service, and Regional & Organised Crime Unit (ROCU), who will put out warnings of specific cyber crime activity in your area.

Or join CiSP32 which provides a forum for cyber security discussion from beginner through to expert level. It is also a platform where organisations can share intelligence gathered from their own network.


If you’d like advice on making your company cyber resilient, QASSS offers bespoke support for businesses in the home improvement and renewable sectors.

Customer service

Latest UKCSI research highlights the importance of customer service

The latest report* on customer service across the UK economy from the UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI) shows that customer satisfaction has pretty much remained flat over the last year.

The UKCSI is an independent, national benchmark of customer satisfaction published each January and July which measures customers’ experiences and relationships with organisations on 26 metrics which are based on research into customer priorities.

Key headlines

  • The July 2020 UKCSI is 77.0 (out of 100), 0.1 points lower than a year ago and 1.2 points below the highpoint recorded in July 2017.
  • In the context of the COVID-19, customers believe that doing the right thing to protect their employees (40.1%), prioritising the needs of vulnerable customers (39.8%) and keeping customers updated (39.3%) were the top 3 most important things for organisations to focus on during the crisis.
  • The research also indicated that COVID-19 has changed the way people think about customer service with 65.6% of customers valuing the role of employees who work in customer services more than before.

Impact of COVID-19

We have seen that some companies have responded more effectively than others during the crisis in terms of their agility and employee and customer engagement. As lockdown eases against a backdrop of an uncertain economy, companies will be tested even more with customer satisfaction and complaints handling capabilities at the forefront.

As lockdown eases, 4 key factors will frame the challenges for organisations:

  1. The evolving threat of COVID-19 and measures needed to reduce the threat.
  2. Changes in customer needs, preferences and behaviours.
  3. Economic legacy for communities, individuals and organisations.
  4. Organisations’ priorities: short-term sales or service and care for customers.

What the COVID-19 crisis has highlighted is that customer service is a key function and agility, innovation, commercial acumen and customer care are not created overnight but are the products of a long-term focus on culture and values.

Joanna Causon, Chief Executive of the Institute of Customer Service, commented:

Now is a time to reset business and customer objectives and focus on employee engagement, service productivity and innovation. I believe organisations will need to re-examine who they serve, how they provide service, the value they create and the sustainability of operating models.

The central challenges will be managing financial pressures alongside developing a culture of employee engagement, innovation and genuine care for customers: both are essential to achieve short and long-term objectives.

Key priorities identified by customers for organisations to focus on during the COVID-19 crisis

Additional research was collected from over 1,000 customers to assess what was important to their experiences with organisations during the crisis.

In the context of the COVID-19, customers believe that doing the right thing to protect their employees (40.1%), prioritising the needs of vulnerable customers (39.8%) and keeping customers updated (39.3%) were the top 3 most important things for organisations to focus on during the crisis.

customer service

Vulnerable customers

Many people have been physically, mentally and financially affected by the pandemic and may now fall into the ‘vulnerable’ category. In many cases, customers’ needs and priorities when dealing with organisations have changed significantly and will continue to evolve, often in unpredictable ways.

Organisations must understand how their customer experience is performing and how customer expectations are shifting. Customers need to know what to expect from organisations and how to access services, help and advice.

Complaint Handling

The research also compared average scores of the 50 highest rated organisations against the remaining organisations looking at customer experience, service and complaint handling. As you can see below, complaint handling and speed of resolving complaints across both the top organisations and the poorer performers is still rated as poor, scoring less than 7 out of 10 across the board.

customer service

We’ve introduced a NEW complaint cost calculator which you can download here. Input your business figures to calculate the impact on your company’s revenue and margin.


We provide complaint handling and dispute resolution services across the home improvement and renewable energy sectors. We recognise speed is crucial in both complaint and dispute handling and to that end, we are award-winning and industry-leading with an average dispute resolution time of just 3.59 days.

To find out how we can help, please do not hesitate to contact us on 0330 335 3354 or email Laura, our Service Delivery Manager at [email protected]



*The UKCSI is an independent, national benchmark of customer satisfaction published each January and July. The UKCSI measures customers’ experiences and relationships with organisations on 26 metrics which are based on research into customer priorities. This UKCSI covers 271 organisations across 13 sectors. The research for this UKCSI is based on 45,000 customer responses conducted in 2 waves of research: the first wave was conducted between 10 September and 7 October 2019; the second wave was conducted between 16 March and 13 April 2020.
CTSI resolution

CCAS celebrates five years of Alternative Dispute Resolution

The Consumer Codes Approval Scheme (CCAS), of which QASSS is an approved member, celebrates five years of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) consumer regulations and its achievements during this period.

The scheme aims to promote consumer interests by setting out the principles of effective customer service and protection. It goes above and beyond consumer law obligations and sets a higher standard, showing consumers clearly – through the right to display the CTSI approved code logo – that code members can be trusted.

Over the past five years, over 68,000 UK businesses joined the scheme and over £12.7M was recovered for consumers.

In April, a report revealed that CCAS now protects almost £135bn of consumer transactions, a 62% year-on-year increase.

By assisting consumers and businesses, ADR within CCAS helps both avoid costly court proceedings and enables them to reach an agreement quicker. Consumers gain access to a clear complaint and ADR procedure. Businesses are regularly audited and monitored to ensure they comply with the high standards set by their approved code of practice. By using an approved trader, consumers have protection above and beyond regular consumer law rights.

CTSI Chief Executive and Interim Chair of the CCAS Board, Leon Livermore, said:

“ADR has proved vital for strengthening the relationship between UK consumers and businesses. I am proud of CCAS’ achievements over the past five years, and I look forward to its continuing growth and development as we come out of the coronavirus lockdown, and over the next five years.”

QASSS is an approved provider of ADR helping both businesses and consumers to resolve disputes through mediation and avoid the stress and cost of going to court. Our award-winning service is industry leading with an average resolution time of just 3.59 days and 98.4% of disputes are resolved without need for referral to the Ombudsman.

construction talent retention scheme

QASSS welcomes the Construction Talent Retention Scheme

QASSS welcomes today’s announcement from the Chancellor confirming support for the Construction Talent Retention Scheme. 

Formally launching later this month, the Construction Talent Retention Scheme is a partnership between industry and Government to secure essential talent in the UK’s construction sector. 

Announced by the Chancellor in today’s statement, the scheme is run by the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) which is made up of trade and business associations from across the supply chain.

The online portal supports redeployment of staff at risk of redundancy from across the sector, while also enabling temporary employee loans between businesses. It also gives displaced workers from other sectors a route to find new employment in construction, while offering businesses a platform to find the skills they need.  

The not-for-profit programme has funding secured until the end of April 2021, providing a free online platform for any business or organisation looking to hire, while ensuring that candidates’ skills and experience are given a prominent platform within the wider industry. 

The CTR Scheme:

  • Retains talent
  • Retains skills
  • Supports families
  • Supports businesses

Businesses and employers interested in finding out more are encouraged to register their interest at:

carbon emissions green recovery

Government to boost job retention and a ‘green recovery’

The Chancellor today announced a package of measures to support jobs and invest in a ‘green recovery’. The ‘Plan for Jobs’ includes job creation by bringing forward work on £8.8 billion of new infrastructure, decarbonisation and maintenance projects.

Green Homes Grant

As part of investment in a ‘green recovery’, homeowners and landlords in England will be able to apply for vouchers from a £2 billion Green Homes Grant scheme to make their homes more energy-efficient and create local jobs.

  • The grant will cover at least two-thirds of the cost for energy efficient measures up to £5k.
  • For low income households, the vouchers will cover the full cost up to £10k.

Public Sector, Infrastructure Investment & Social Housing Polit

  • A £1 billion programme is being introduced to make public buildings, including schools and hospitals, greener, helping the country meet its ambitions of achieving Net Zero by 2050.
  • As announced, £5.8 billion will be spent on shovel-ready construction projects to get Britain building, including hospital maintenance and upgrades, local roads network and rebuilding schools.
  • The Chancellor has also announced £50 million to pilot the right approach towards decarbonised social housing.

Construction Talent Retention Scheme

The Construction Talent Retention Scheme is a partnership between the Government and industry to secure essential talent in the UK construction sector.

  • Construction Talent Retention Scheme will keep skills in the sector, matching displaced workers with employers seeking new staff
  • Scheme is based on proven model to safeguard talent in the aerospace and automotive sectors
  • Supported by the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) and all leading sector trade bodies

The Construction Talent Retention Scheme, to formally launch later this month, will be an online portal that supports redeployment of staff at risk of redundancy across the sector, while also enabling temporary employee loans between businesses. The Scheme gives displaced workers from other sectors a route to find new employment in construction. The not-for-profit programme has funding secured until the end of April 2021.Businesses and employers interested in finding out more are encouraged to register their interest at:

Job Retention Bonus

As part of the plan to support jobs, a Job Retention Bonus will be introduced to help firms keep furloughed workers.

  • UK Employers will receive a one-off bonus of £1,000 for each furloughed employee who is still employed as of 31 January 2021.
  • They must be paid at least £520 each month from November to January.

Kickstart Scheme

A new £2 billion Kickstart Scheme is being launched to create hundreds of thousands of new, fully subsidised jobs for young people across the country.

  • Those aged 16-24, claiming Universal Credit and at risk of long-term unemployment, will be eligible.
  • Funding available for each six-month job placement will cover 100% of the National Minimum Wage for 25 hours a week plus an amount to cover overheads, and employers will be able to top up the wage.
  • Employees must provide ‘good quality’ jobs with training and support.
  • There is no cap on the number of places available.

Apprenticeship and traineeships

A total of £1.6 billion will be invested in scaling up employment support schemes, training and apprenticeships to help people looking for a job. Young people, who are amongst the worst hit by the crisis, will benefit from this. This includes:

  • Businesses will be given £2,000 for each new apprentice they hire under the age of 25. This is in addition to the existing £1,000 payment the Government already provides for new 16-18-year-old apprentices and those aged under 25 with an Education, Health and Care Plan.
  • A £111 million investment to triple the scale of traineeships in 2020-21 ensuring more young people have access to high quality training.
  • £17 million of funding to triple the number of sector-based work academy placements in 2020-21
Work Safe campaign

Work Safe – Safe Work Campaign

The ‘Work Safe – Safe Work’ campaign has been launched to help guide and reassure homeowners who are looking to employ tradespeople in and around their homes in a post-COVID lockdown world.

As lockdown restrictions begin to ease across the country, more homeowners will be having work carried out in their homes. The new campaign from Trustmark and the Construction Leadership Council aims to give homeowners confidence in employing tradespeople in this new reality we are finding ourselves in.

There are lots of great resources available to DGCOS, HICS and HIES members and our clients including a consumer-facing microsite, video and guidebook to help homeowners navigate through safety considerations when inviting tradespeople into their home to complete work.

Downloaded the free assets here to help give confidence to your customers.

In case you missed it, you can also download our guide to protecting customers and your workforce and free posters here.

sustainable innovation fund

£200 million Sustainable Innovation Fund unveiled

  • The Sustainable Innovation Fund at almost £200 million is designed to help businesses across the UK drive forward cutting-edge new tech and recover from the impacts of coronavirus.
  • Government investment to support innovations ranging from AI systems managing city traffic flows to the latest reusable packaging materials.
  • Research and development (R&D) intensive businesses urged to apply for funding to turn ingenious ideas into new technologies.

Innovative ideas and projects led by companies recovering from the impact of coronavirus will not be lost, thanks to a new £200 million fund launched on 27th June.

The government’s Sustainable Innovation Fund will be open to companies across all parts of the UK who need urgent financial support to keep their cutting-edge projects and ideas alive.

Funding totalling almost £200 million could go towards developing new technologies focused on making homes and offices more energy efficient to cut bills, creating ground-breaking medical technologies to treat infections and diseases, or reducing the carbon footprint of public transport in our towns and cities.

In a move to support people across the country to establish more ‘climate-positive’ behaviours, businesses and start-ups could also make use of the fund to develop smart sustainability-focused projects – from apps encouraging people to cut down their food waste to sustainable biodegradable packaging.

The Sustainable Innovation Fund will help power the UK’s economic recovery and develop new sustainable opportunities for businesses in any sector following the coronavirus pandemic, while helping the UK meet its ambitions to cut carbon emissions to net zero by 2050.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma said:

Our country is home to some of the world’s most cutting-edge businesses that turn ingenious ideas into new technologies every day. That’s why we’re backing our innovators and risk-takers with new investment so they can recover and grow out of the coronavirus pandemic.

Today I am urging businesses in all parts of the UK to come forward and pitch their state-of-the-art ideas to us, so we can work together to power the UK’s economic recovery.

This funding, delivered through Innovate UK, forms part of a wider £750 million package of grants and loans announced in April to support innovative firms. This sits alongside the new £500 million Future Fund, which provides match-funding to private investors, and has already received over 500 applications since its launch on 20 May.

Businesses can apply for support through the Sustainable Innovation Fund by visiting the Innovate UK website from Monday 29 June.

carbon emissions green recovery

£80m government boost to cut carbon emissions

  • Nearly £80 million investment from government to reduce carbon emissions from industry and homes.
  • First phase to help heavy industry go green, helping to cut energy costs, protect jobs, and cut carbon emissions.
  • New green homes programme will retrofit homes with latest green tech, helping people save money on their energy bills.

Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng has announced nearly £80 million of government investment to help cut carbon emissions from homes and energy intensive businesses.

The funding will be invested in a wide range of programmes, including pioneering heat networks and an innovative new programme to bring down the cost of retrofitting residential properties with the latest energy efficiency technologies.

Funds announced today include:

  • £30 million towards the first phase of the Industrial Energy Transformation Fund (IETF), which supports energy intensive manufacturers, like car factories and steel plants, to cut their carbon footprint
  • £25 million for heat networks, which reduce carbon and cut heating bills for customers, including one which will harness geothermal water sitting in disused mines to heat 1,250 homes
  • £24 million for innovative projects to help develop energy efficient homes by installing green tech and insulation in houses

Phase 1 of the IETF, for which guidance is published today, is worth an initial £30 million in support of the manufacturing sector. The fund allows companies with high energy use to apply for grants to install technology that reduces their energy bills and cuts carbon emissions.

Worth an eventual £289 million in England, Wales and Northern Ireland up until 2024, the IETF also seeks to help bring down the costs of technologies that reduce energy consumption and emissions in heavy industrial processes.

£25 million will go towards heat networks, including one in Gateshead, which will harness geothermal water sitting in disused mines to heat 1,250 homes. With thousands of redundant mine shafts criss-crossing the country, experts say that if the mine shaft technology proves successful and economically viable, it could be scaled up to power around 6 million homes around Britain.

The final £24 million green homes investment will comprise of:

  • £7.7 million to install green technology and insulation in over 300 council houses, to bring down the cost of retrofitting homes – with pilot projects in Cornwall, Nottingham, and Sutton
  • £14.6 million to pilot the roll-out of innovative heat pumps to 750 homes in the South East of Scotland, the South East of England and Newcastle
  • £1.8 million to support the development of innovative green home finance products by lenders

The announcements today form part of the wider efforts to ensure the UK meets its legally binding target to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng said:

We want to invest now to ensure we continue to propel the UK towards a stronger, greener future.

This new £80 million investment will help to reduce emissions across our economy, which will save people money on energy bills and protect jobs in heavy industry.

password protection cyber security

Improving cyber security – password protection

As part of our cyber security guides based on NCSC (National Cyber Security Centre) advice, today we look at password protection.


Your laptops, computers, tablets and smartphones will contain a lot of your own business-critical data, the personal information of your customers, and also details of the online accounts that you access. It is essential that this data is available to you, but not available to unauthorised users.

Passwords, when implemented correctly, are a free, easy and effective way to prevent unauthorised users accessing your devices.

Here are 5 top tips when using passwords:

Tip 1: Make sure you switch on password protection

Set a screen lock password, PIN, or other authentication method (such as fingerprint or face unlock). If you are mostly using fingerprint or face unlock, you’ll be entering a password less often, so consider setting up a long password that’s difficult to guess.

Password protection is not just for smartphones and tablets. Make sure that your office equipment all use an encryption product (such as BitLocker for Windows) using a Trusted Platform Module (TPM)21 with a PIN, or FileVault (on macOS) in order to start up. Most modern devices have encryption built in, but encryption may still need to be turned on and configured, so check you have it set up.

Tip 2: Use two factor authentication for ‘important’ accounts

If you are given the option to use two-factor authentication (also known as 2FA) for any of your accounts, you should do; it adds a large amount of security for not much extra effort.

2FA requires two different methods to ‘prove’ your identity before you can use a service, generally a password plus one other method. This could be a code that’s sent to your smartphone (or a code that’s generated from a bank’s card reader) that enter in addition to your password.

Tip 3: Avoid using predictable passwords

Make sure staff are given actionable information on setting passwords. Passwords should be easy to remember, but hard for somebody else to guess. A good rule is ‘make sure that somebody who knows you well, couldn’t guess your password in 20 attempts’.

Staff should also avoid using the most common passwords, which criminals can easily guess.

Tip 4: Help staff cope with ‘password overload’

If you manage how passwords are used in your organisation, there are several things you can do that will improve security. Most importantly, your staff will have dozens of non-work related passwords to remember as well, so only enforce password access to a service if you really need to.

Where you do use passwords to access a service, do not enforce regular password changes.

Passwords really only need to be changed when you suspect a compromise of the login credentials.

Staff will forget passwords, so make sure they can reset their own passwords easily. Consider using password managers, which are tools that can create and store passwords for you that you access via a ‘master’ password. Since the master password is protecting all your other passwords, make sure it’s a strong one, for example by using three random words.

Tip 5: Change all default passwords

One of the most common mistakes is not changing the manufacturers’ default passwords that smartphones, laptops, and other types of equipment are issued with. Change all default passwords before devices are distributed to staff. You should also regularly check devices (and software) specifically to detect unchanged default passwords.

IT support and solutions

If you need help with business continuity, cyber security and other IT solutions to help your business stay safe, innovative and reduce IT costs, we can help.

We understand the home improvement and renewable sectors and offer a host of bespoke IT solutions whether on a project, temporary or permanent basis.


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home improvement

Positive signs for home improvement spending

Recent research from Insight DIY commissioned by Safestyle brings good news to the home improvement sector with 55%% of Brits prioritising plans to update their home as the Covid-19 restrictions continue to be eased.

The survey showed that 62% of Brits feel better off having saved money during the lockdown on things such as commuting, socialising, shopping and going on holiday. One in three (31%) are likely to spend this extra money on home improvements – with 1 in 8 expecting to invest in home improvements within the next six months.

Projects vary and include both interior and exterior home improvements:

  • 23% are looking to redecorate inside
  • 25% are looking at garden improvements
  • 13% are focusing on improving their home exteriors

In terms of safety, 34% felt comfortable letting contractors and tradespeople into their home to carry out work, with another 26 per cent having no strong feelings either way.

Many contractors and tradespeople have been working hard to put in place strict COVID-19 safety plans to protect their customers and employees. QASSS alongside HIES, DGCOS and HICS who represent businesses in the home improvement and renewable energy sectors, issued full safety guidance and advice based on government guidelines back in May to support a safe return to work.

To help protect from COVID-19, the top five requirements from those surveyed included:

1) Keeping at least 2 metres away (71%)
2) Washing/sanitising hands before entering (67%)
3) Wearing a protective face mask (63%)
4) Confirming they have no Covid-19 symptoms (56%)
5) Wearing protective gloves (56%)

COVID-19 has transformed how we live and work, with remote working now becoming a more permanent way of life and home considered the safest place to be. And with economic uncertainty, people are choosing to improve or extend their homes rather than move.

If you’re planning a new project, make sure you only instruct skilled tradesmen who are members of a consumer protection scheme or other trade scheme demonstrating adherence to quality standards and service.

HIESHICS and DGCOS are consumer protection schemes that cover the whole of the home improvement and renewable energy sectors. Trade members undergo full compliance checks and all consumers get access to free ADR (alternative dispute resolution) should something go wrong.

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New support for the construction industry

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has announced new measures to be introduced this week to help the construction industry boost building and return to work safely, including the extension of planning permission deadlines, flexible working hours on construction sites and changes to the planning appeal process.

Planning permission deadlines extended

Planning permission deadlines will be extended, planning appeals will be sped up and builders will be allowed more flexible working hours following agreement with their local council.

Planning permission usually expires after three years if work has not started onsite. Sites with consent that have an expiry date between the start of lockdown and the end of this year will now see their consent extended to 1 April 2021. This will prevent work that has been temporarily disrupted by the pandemic from stopping altogether.

The government estimates that by the end of this month alone, more than 400 residential permissions providing more than 24,000 new homes would have expired. The new measures will help these developments and more resume as the economy recovers.

Planning appeal process

New measures will also permanently grant the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) the ability to use more than one procedure – written representations, hearings and inquiries – at the same time when dealing with a planning appeal, enabling appeals to happen much faster.

Last year a pilot programme tested this approach and implemented recommendations of the Rosewell Review, which more than halved the time taken for appeal inquiries, from 47 weeks to 23 weeks.

Flexible working hours

Builders will be able to quickly agree more flexible construction site working hours with their local council for a temporary period. This will make it easier to follow public health guidance onsite and by staggering builders’ arrival times, public transport will be less busy, and the risk of infection will be reduced.

Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick, said:

Building the homes the country needs is central to the mission of this government and is an important part of our plans to recover from the impact of the coronavirus.

New laws will enable us to speed up the pace of planning appeals and save hundreds of construction sites from being cancelled before they have a chance to get spades in the ground, helping to protect hundreds of thousands of jobs and create many others.

Taken together, these measures will help to keep workers safe and our economy moving as we work together to bounce back from the pandemic.



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Mobile technology cyber safe

Improving cyber security – mobile technology

As part of our cyber security guides, QASSS has put together a quick guide based on NCSC (National Cyber Security Centre) advice to help businesses become more cyber resilient. In this article, we look at mobile technology.


Mobile technology is now an essential part of modern business, with more of our data being stored on tablets and smartphones.

Here are 5 quick tips that can help keep your mobile devices, and the information stored on them, secure.

Tip 1: Switch on password protection

A suitably complex PIN or password (opposed to a simple one that can be easily guessed or gleaned from your social media profiles) will prevent the average criminal from accessing your phone.

Many devices now include fingerprint recognition to lock your device, without the need for a password. However, these features are not always enabled ‘out of the box’, so you should always check they have been switched on.

Tip 2: Make sure lost or stolen devices can be tracked, locked or wiped

Staff are more likely to have their tablets or phones stolen (or lose them) when they are away from the office or home. Fortunately, most devices include free web-based tools that are invaluable should you lose your device.

You can use them to:

  • track the location of a device
  • remotely lock access to the device (to prevent anyone else using it)
  • remotely erase the data stored on the device
  • retrieve a backup of data stored on the device

Setting up these tools on all your organisation’s devices may seem a huge job, but by using mobile device management software, you can set up your devices to a standard configuration with a single click.

Tip 3: Keep your devices up to date

All manufacturers (for example Windows, Android, iOS) release regular updates that contain critical security updates to keep the device protected. This process is quick, easy, and free; devices should be set to automatically update, where possible.

Make sure everyone knows how important these updates are, and explain how to do it, if necessary. At some point, these updates will no longer be available (as the device reaches the end of its supported life), at which point you should consider replacing it with a modern alternative.

Tip 4: Keep your apps up to date

Just like the operating systems on your organisation’s devices, all the applications that you have installed should also be updated regularly with patches from the software developers.

These updates will not only add new features, but they will also patch any security holes that have been discovered. Make sure staff know when updates are ready, how to install them, and how important it is to do so straight away.

Tip 5: Don’t connect to unknown Wi-Fi Hotspots

Ensure staff understand why they should not connect to public Wi-Fi hotspots (for example in hotels or coffee shops), as there is no way to easily find out who controls the hotspot, or to prove that it belongs to who you think it does.

If you connect to these hotspots, somebody else could access:

  • what you are working on whilst connected
  • your private login details that many apps and web services maintain whilst you’re logged on

The simplest precaution is to not connect to the internet using unknown hotspots, and instead use your mobile 3G or 4G mobile network, which will have built-in security.

You can also use Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), a technique that encrypts your data before it is sent across the Internet. If you are using third party VPNs, you’ll need the technical ability to configure it yourself, and should only use VPNs provided by reputable service providers.

IT Solutions

QASSS is a Cyber Essentials accredited business and able to provide businesses with support and insights on how to best manage security with their organisation.

We understand the needs of home improvement and renewable companies and offer a wide range of bespoke IT solutions. If you’d like advice and support, contact us on 0330 335 3354 or email [email protected]



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