Despite a very positive start to business this year for most of the industry, one continuing complaint that does seem to be becoming more vociferous is the behaviour of customers towards business. The main complaint seems to be focused mainly on the fact that more and more clients are becoming far more unreasonable, especially when it comes to paying up.
Discussion flared up on Twitter the other night over a client that was withholding a fairly large amount of money over a problem as small as single mark on a sealed unit. What seems to have disappeared over the last few years is general respect for business and the people in it, and has been replaced with a false sense over over-entitlement. There are many reasons why I think this, but I believe that one of the main ones is that customers now seem to think very little of a signature on a legally binding contract.
I see it myself in the day job I do. Customers who might sometimes regret the earlier choices they signed for start to play hard ball. We explain to them that we systematically went through the product spec with them, and that they signed a legally binding contract. However we are starting to see more customers being bold enough to tell us that they don’t care what they signed. What remains of reason towards business with the general public is dripping away quickly.
It’s time we as a business community started to impress upon the general public the importance of what they are signing when they do purchase new windows and doors from us. We need to emphasise the importance of a signature on a legally binding contract at the start of the sales process. Customers now do not fear the paperwork they sign thanks to round after round of overly protective consumer protection laws and TV programmes conditioning people to think it is OK to extort businesses for all they can get away with.
What our industry also needs to do is to get it’s paperwork in order. Smart consumers who can spot an opportunity are finding gaps and loopholes on contracts to fight their cases and prolong paying balances. As an industry I think in general most paperwork is quite sloppy. I have seen competitors’ quotes and it is staggering to see sometimes how little detail there is on the quote. Poor contracts make it very easy for clients to find reasons to withhold payment. It’s time the industry and it’s sales force took a bit more time over it’s paperwork and make sure that their contracts don’t leave the company wide open to abuse.
We need to remember what is at stake here. The more problems clients cause us issues, the more money it takes to put right, which eats into the profit margin of the project. The less chance there is of nit picking, the better that margin can be preserved. We also need to be honest with ourselves. I am sure we all like to think that all our clients are perfect and reasonable. But we also need to accept that more and more are finding ways to prolong paying the final bill, which is hurting installations companies up and down the UK.
It’s easily fixed. If they don’t pay, the product still belongs to the company (legally) so take it back! One big pane of glass from a bay window, or a door leaf puts the ball back in the installers court.
Our main problem has been comp doors . Customers thinking the frame was the same colour as the door or the inside of the door is the same colour as outside . We have now doctored a suppliers comp door order form , we go through it with the customer , tick all the boxes , go through it again , they then sign at the bottom and keep a copy . We have explained why we are going to such great lengths . And customers can see how easy mistakes were made before
I agree with all of what has been said so far. It seems that contracts mean very little and customers have told me directly that they don’t read the small print because they can’t be bothered. I have to say it’s getting to the point where I am seriously consider a future in this industry. We had a couple recently dictate that they wouldn’t spend more £800 on a set of oak french doors with some brickwork involved and a step down into the garden (and that was including VAT). They said that’s what they had been told they would… Read more »
You touched briefly on this point in the post but I think that consumer based tv shows have a lot to answer for. It’s one thing to keep customers informed its another to show customers the ways around paying for products purchased. It’s a wide belief now I feel from customers that they know it will cost more in time and money to pursue them than what it is just to move on. Double glazing companies have been painted as the bad guys for years and consumers genuinely believe that a court will side with them so they play it… Read more »
As someone, who spends his time working with businesses in this sector that want to raise their game, I’m much less sympathetic over this issue. There are still real problems in the industry of (a) sales promises made verbally and not included on the contract just to get the order; (b) inadequate checking processes aimed at identifying potential problems with an order at an early stage; (c) inadequate surveying that fails to lock down detailed specifications with the customer; (d) poor communication with the customer during the lifecycle of the order. All of this occurs far too frequently and results… Read more »
I agree with Anthony Pratt to a large degree. I find it astonishing when I see, as a Fenestration Surveyor some contracts that companies produce. The lack of detail causes no end of problems. Why is this so? Many companies have become obsessed with obtaining orders as their prime objective, I suggest. Pressure is put on commission only salespeople to perform. Until this attitude and the commission only structure changes, there will always be this problem. There are difficult consumers without doubt, but don’t pressurise them and put everything on the contract, and give them respect to start with. We… Read more »