Outside of work, DGCOS Chief Executive, Faisal Hussain, is undergoing significant home renovations, and his experiences with different types of tradespeople have proven how important good service levels are in terms of winning and retaining customers. Here he outlines important factors installers may like to consider in their own businesses.
It has been an interesting exercise trying to renovate my home. When trying to engage with various types of installers, I have experienced a surprising amount of miscommunication, lack of responses to requests for quotes, wildly differing costs between suppliers, and evasiveness when it comes to deposit and payment protection.
Not for the first time, it occurred to me that running a business that involves dealing with the consumer, installing products and supplying service is so much more than just the product and the installation. One of the worst things about my experience is the frustration, not to mention the waste of time and the resulting delays to the project, which could almost always have been avoided. So what are the pitfalls of providing poor service, and what should we be mindful of in our industry?
Making business harder
The Financial Times reported in August that construction companies in the UK are going out of business at the highest rate in a decade. Unforeseen challenges such as Covid and Brexit have meant disruptions to the supply chain and labour shortages, so surely it is just logical that installers should be doing all they can to future-proof their businesses. By providing poor service levels, organisations are sabotaging their own performance.
There are always going to be issues that cannot be predicted in an installation project: bad weather, structural issues, and delays in product supply for example. Most consumers understand this and generally accept it. It is the avoidable issues that cause problems. For example, I have approached a number of companies for quotes, and some do not even reply. I understand they may be too busy to take on the work – but tell me and I can move on. Some companies who have quoted and have asked for a deposit have no idea what I mean when I ask them about payment protection, particularly where they ask for a deposit. Either the company has no policy in place, or the contractor who I am speaking to is unaware of it. In terms of making a buying decision, I have already discounted them – therefore what could have been a perfectly decent installer has lost business because of a lack basic service levels.
Small changes lead to more business
At DGCOS we understand that our installers are experts in what they do: they know their products, building regulations, and how to do a quality installation. However, what is not always the case is how to manage the softer skills that all business owners need, which can often come down to better communication.
In the days of social media and platforms such as Trustpilot, Google reviews, and Facebook, bad news travels fast. Consumers are far more likely to post negative rather than positive reviews. Like it or not, consumers trust online reviews and focussing on service levels is one way to help build your reputation. If your service levels are not up to scratch, a consumer will choose another supplier.
Basic service levels
- Communicate. If you are too busy to take on the work when you receive a request for a quote, tell the customer. It just takes a few minutes and is basic politeness.
- Do what you say you are going to do. If you have committed to a site visit, for example, turn up when you say you are going to or let them know if you can’t. Your customer’s time is just as valuable as yours.
- Put service level agreements in place, not just for the customer, but for any employees. Make sure they understand the importance of getting back to customers, taking pride in how they work, their appearance and their attitude. First impressions count and an employee that has not read the memo can do damage.
- Educate the customer. Make them aware at an early stage about what they can expect, what happens next, timeframes and possible delays. Don’t leave them guessing.
DGCOS members have access to support
DGCOS installers benefit from a range of support measures to help guide them through their journey with a consumer. End users benefit from payment protection as standard, and I know from my recent experience how valuable that is, so use it as a selling point.
We also advise on all the softer skills that installation companies may need help with: generating leads, marketing planning, managing an online presence – all these things that are vital to building and keeping a reputation and being seen as a trustworthy company. Companies that embrace a full service approach will be winning and keeping more business – and adding to their bottom line.