The fenestration sector has always done a decent job of communicating and talking to itself. The one area I think we always let ourselves down on is communication with the general public.
We advertise. We do TV and online advertising fairly well. But we don’t actually do a good job of showing and explaining what we actually do in our sector. That is becoming evident to me in my daily conversations with customers. And it was a phone call with a customer yesterday which highlighted this point to me.
Fenestration needs to explain why
A client rang me on the phone yesterday in need of a price for a single window. She was quite frustrated in her dealings with other companies. She explained one told her that they had imposed a minimum order value of £800 otherwise they wouldn’t entertain her. Another said they wouldn’t even bother coming out for one window. It was clear she was feeling frustrated at being rebuffed in quite a blunt manner. The rough prices given over the phone were also catching her by surprise.
Instead of explaining why things are more expensive than people might have imagined, and why they were being selective about what work they do, they just shut the conversation down, which irritated the client. This was not the right way to deal with this person. When I spoke to her, I explained what the current situation was with regards to demand and supply in our sector and construction in general, what impact it was having on delivery and installation times and why prices for one window were higher than she thought they might have been. Once that was communicated to her, and she felt like her time was being valued, she was much happier.
All it takes is communication. When I have been speaking with customers over the past few weeks they are not really aware of the problems and why it is causing the effects they are. They know our sector is busy, as all trades are busy. But they don’t know why, and they don’t know the problems being experienced in the supply chain and they don’t know why prices are rising so far and so fast. However, once I have a chat with my clients about the situation they do feel more at ease. They feel more informed and many feel better placed to actually make a decision now they know the state of the current market.
We have to do a better job of talking to people about our industry. Rather than just sell to them, educate them about what we do, how we do it, the supply chain, where their products come from etc. With prices rising on a weekly basis, it is easy for the public to be sceptical looking in on the industry from the outside. But a little information and education about what is happening on the ground inside fenestration can quickly reassure a client, which is what happened with me when I talked through the situation with the homeowner that rang us.
Better communication helps everyone
In extraordinary times, communication with the parties that affected by such times, in this case, homeowners, is important. It shows willing transparency. A sector that is prepared to engage on their level and show what is happening in real-time and how it affects them as the end-user. I have no doubt that there is a proportion of companies, most likely installers, that are indeed explaining our current issues to customers. But it’s not all, and it’s not loud.
The fenestration sector does need to look at how it engages with homeowners on a level other than sales adverts on TV and online. If you look at other sectors, such as tech, food, automotive and others, the public knows much more about those sectors, the supply chain and how external factors can influence them. Ask an end-user about our sector and how it works, how the supply chain operates, and almost all will stare back at you with very little to say. That need not be the case.
I believe there is a very strong argument to reach out to the public in a different way, especially in times of very high demand and other special circumstances. Not just to sell to them, but to open up and educate better how we operate. To show why prices are rising. To explain why lead times are so long compared to pre-pandemic days. In the case of the client in the story above, a little bit of education and knowledge went a long way, and meant dealing with us compared to our competitors was a much better experience for her.
In the end, better communication helps all parties, both the fenestration sector and end-user. Perhaps as we are all now on social media, we can use these channels better as we go forwards and engage better with our customers.
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