One of the single most important elements to any business, not just in fenestration, is good customer service. It’s one of the fundamental pillars to success within a company, and often the reason a business struggles to survive if customer service goes south.

But when you think about it, the foundations of good customer service really aren’t that difficult. So why is it some get it right, and some get it so wrong?

Culture and leadership

It’s really not rocket science. Good customer service is not a highly specified skill. If a customer reports a problem, attempt to sort it out as quickly as possible so that both parties are satisfied. If someone emails, answer back! If there is a product fault, organise a repair or replacement as soon as you can. If people have questions, find answers and don’t ignore them.

I’m not telling you how to suck eggs, but the very basics of good customer service are simply communicating to the end user in a timely fashion. So many times I see on social media complaints of poor customer service in our own sector due to the fact that no one is getting back to them. Phone calls and emails going unanswered. Weeks and weeks of silence on replacement parts. It’s not difficult to pick up the phone, no matter how late in the day it is. The same goes for emails.

So much of the time, the frustration shown by a customer is just down to poor communication. In my experience, a problem that takes time to fix isn’t an issue so long as the end user sees that you’re on top of the problem and trying to resolve it. Things go downhill if you ignore the client or take too long to offer a response.

I think we all know this. This isn’t new. But in my 17 years in this industry, I have come to learn that the difference between good customer service and bad customer service comes down to the culture and leadership within a business. As with most things in the business world, the buck stops with the person at the top, and customer service performance is no different.

Drawing on my own experiences, I have dealt with a variety of suppliers to our own business, and it is clear to see where some businesses are being led well from the top and instilling a solid work ethic and focus on customer service. It has to come from the very top. From CEOs and MDs. They set the example and the direction a company goes in. For example, we use Endurance for our composite doors. They’re a supplier we can rely on and there is rarely a problem with anything they deliver. However, there was a small issue that arose this week. Already the issue has been logged and progress has been made on resolving it. No phone calls required from our end to chase it up. Just notifying them of the problem, we got an email in response and we now know what action is being taken. Easy process, clear communication, and have allowed us to contact our client to inform them of what is happening. Everyone is happy and there’s no major drama.

I’ve used Endurance there as an example, but I can say the same for others that we use as well, such as Brisant, Morley Glass, Glazerite, Origin and more. We like to surround ourselves with companies we can trust to put things right. Running a business in this environment in hard enough right now, so having others we can rely on becomes even more important.

Customer service a deal breaker

As we head into difficult waters, and perhaps a recession which could stretch to two years and cut quite deep, quality customer service is a major USP that is going to set others apart from the rest.

We have seen in these past couple of years that installers are not afraid to walk away from their suppliers if they don’t believe they are getting the service they deserve. At a time when demand is quickly falling and profit margins are being eroded by higher prices, companies in the manufacturing part of the fenestration supply chain can ill-afford to lose valuable clients due to poor service.

This is where good leadership becomes vital. From the top down, a company has to live and breathe good customer service. MDs and CEOs cannot delegate these sorts of priorities.

Remember that the basics of good customer service, consistent communication, is not an unknown science. It’s about answering phone calls, replying to emails, explaining the process that is underway in solving a problem, helping to generate leads, and keeping in regular touch with clients. There is much more besides of course but you get the picture. We all know how to do this. These are not difficult tasks.

We’re headed into a rough patch. Installers will look at new ways of winning additional business to try and survive and thrive. Good customer service is perhaps now one of the single most important factors that will be considered before an installer commits to a new product or supplier. Get it wrong, and that is valuable business lost.

If 2023 is going to be the year of anything, it has to be about good customer service.

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