Late deliveries this year? Damaged products? Missing items? Poor customer service? If you answered yes to anything of these, chances are you’re not the only one, and you won’t have just complained about it once or twice this year.
As we start to look back at this year, I would say that one of the biggest themes and talking points, whether in public or in private has been the quite serious slip in the standard of product quality and customer service. If the industry is to more forward in a positive and productive manner in 2018, it needs to get hold of the issues we have seen this year and bury them. Deep.
If I were to state a reason for the drop in service and quality levels in our industry, I would point to the massive diversification we have undergone, coupled with fewer staff at companies being asked to do more. There is only so much so many people can do before things start to break down, and that breaking down is what I believe we have seen this year.
Next year however, this cannot be allowed to happen. There are a number of factors coming into play next year which means that if we as an industry are to be productive and profitable, we all have to absolutely nail customer service and product quality.
There is a much telegraphed slowdown coming, both in our market and the wider UK economy. Although the UK economy is still forecast to grow, our own industry is forecast to contract be a couple of percent, after contracting a steep 4% in 2017. Those figure remain to be proved, but it would be shortsighted for us to count them out.
What this does mean is that when home owners decide to invest in their homes and buy big ticket items like windows and doors, they are going to be extra sharp when it comes to the customer service they receive and the quality of the windows and doors they have installed. What that also means is that the whole of the supply chain in the window industry has to be firing on all cylinders. We already know how sharp home owners are becoming these days, to the point where more and more are becoming impossible to please. It will cost our industry dearly if the industry continue’s to make the same basic errors in quality and service as it seems to have done in 2017.
Next year really is a crunch year. With living standards being squeezed and profit margins probably slimmer than they should be, we cannot afford to take our eyes off the ball.
Less product, more staff and training
I don’t know about you, but I think the window and door industry has had enough diversification for a while now. We have an absolute ton of new products from all areas of the industry to pick from, and installers are often swamped with choice. Too much choice if you want my honest opinion.
For next year, I would like to see less focus on bringing brand spanking new products to market, and much more focus on the hiring of staff and the training of them and existing staff. Remember, the industry is a much different beast than it was just a few years ago, and we have at our disposal a huge array of new products, all designed to capture the imagination of installers and home owners to help generate sales. I think we need to spend more time training ourselves on what is already currently available. Spend more time on perfecting the supply chain to help cut out the errors and slipping customer service levels. Perhaps then, once those bumps in the road have been smoothed out, we can focus again on product development.
We have to focus strongly on people next year. We are a people-based industry at the end of the day, the machines haven’t yet taken over. We have to increase the amount of training and skills development for our workers. That, along with extra hiring, is the only way we are going to be able to iron out the issues our industry has experienced this year. So far, in my opinion this has been the worst year in terms of product quality and service I have seen in my 12 years in the industry. I would hope that things get a lot better for the next 12 months.
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