In the past couple of years our industry has been quite vocal about it’s problems with product quality and customer service. I remember the problems being quite acute in 2017 and 2018. I have written in previous posts about the need for us to tackle these two major problems as soon as possible. We have enough on our plate as an industry to deal with. The last thing we need is a sector-wide crisis when it comes to quality and service.
These problems come at a time when lead times are becoming shorter and shorter. Is this a fluke? Or is there a direct link between shorter lead times and problems with quality and service? This is the questions I am asking the industry on Twitter over the next week to find out.
This is the question I have posed to all my followers for the next week:
Have quicker window and door lead times resulted in a reduction in product quality and customer service?— glazingblogger (@glazingblogger) May 16, 2019
So far the early votes show a modest lead for “yes”, although that could change as we accrue more votes in the coming days.
If you have been on social media in the past few weeks, especially Twitter, you may well have seen a number of threads involving retailers annoyed at the quality and service they have been provided with by their suppliers. I have seen it all year long so far, from various accounts, and it demonstrates to me that the industry is yet to get a firm grip on the situation.
It begs the question, if it hasn’t, then why? It was posed to me by an industry friend that shortening lead times may well be playing a factor. As we know, shortening lead times have been used as a major USP by many companies who are competing hard to attract new business away from competitors. In a world where we want anything immediately, shorter lead times was an easy sell.
I have however written in previous years that with shorter lead times on products that require special care and attention, there is always going to be a risk that things like product quality and service could be cut in order to deliver that short lead time.
Now some, like Origin Global, have invented whole new production processes to offer their short lead times, dependent on dates for delivery from their installers. I suspect most however are offering their short lead times by simply putting more pressure on the factory floor to do their existing jobs but quicker. If this is indeed the case, then you can see why product quality and customer service might well be suffering in some areas of the industry.
Would you wait?
Another question I would also like to ask is if we really need windows and doors to be made and delivered in a matter of days? I suspect that a significant proportion of installers, small, medium or large, operate on installation lead times of anywhere from three to six weeks if not more. If that’s the case, then they won’t need their products to be made and delivered in less than a week. There is ample time to send an order in, have it processed, checked and put into production without pressure. Surely a better, calmer way to go about business?
We have to remember that what were are selling are bespoke, custom built products, produced to specific sizes and specifications each time an order is processed. We’re not selling white goods, electronics or anything else that might be mass made in bulk quantities. We’re a big ticket industry and I’m not so sure we should be sprinting to the finish line whilst sacrificing other important factors along the way.
So, if it meant waiting another week or two for your windows and doors, providing your installation schedules allow for it, would you be prepared to wait to ensure that what you had delivered and made for you was in better condition? I would, and I think there would be plenty out there who when offered that option would be OK with it as well.
Right now as an industry we have, in my opinion at least, a fantastic array of products available, with almost endless options to personalise and tailor according to demand and requirements. What we have to ask ourselves, after evolving into this much better position, is whether we want to risk all that development, for it to be undone by an over-focus on speed and production times. Personally, I think if we spent a little more time on production and good customer service, and less on absolute speed of production, we’d see less of the complaints.
I imagine there will be a lot of differing points of view on this. So, as always, please leave them in the comments section below and I will publish them as they come in.
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