Throughout his experience of doing significant home renovations, Faisal Hussain, DGCOS Chief Executive, has been exposed to various levels of customer service. He discusses here the main issues that have impacted on him and gives his thoughts on how installers can offer top level service to their customers.
Over the last few months, I have been in the position of being a customer of various trade services during my home renovations. Throughout, I have learned a lot about the importance of providing good customer service. Some service levels have been great, but where it has been less than acceptable, it has caused delays, frustration and it begs the question – is it too much for a buyer to expect good service?
It's not all bad
Firstly, I should point out that it wasn’t all bad news. There are resources available to consumers, such as review platforms, DGCOS website and word of mouth recommendations, which can help when researching a potential supplier. All were invaluable to me as they give objective third party ratings. Also, expert tradespeople can provide great advice, and this certainly helped me with challenges or options I otherwise would not have considered. I found that the tradespeople for the smaller jobs were incredibly accommodating and the timeframes, and costs, of getting them done were all acceptable. It was only when I needed trades for the bigger jobs, such as a bathroom installation, did it all become a different experience.
Installers, take note!
From a customer’s point of view, the frustrations I had in some cases could almost always have been avoided. I was taken aback at how many suppliers failed to even provide a quote, and I contacted approximately ten bathroom companies. It’s discourteous and added unnecessary delays into the project. The quotes also varied widely – the highest was three times as much as the lowest – but no one was able to explain why. Is a lower quote representative of a lower quality product? I couldn’t say, even now. It seemed that in some cases, the tradesperson was unable to break down the costs and therefore justify their final quote.
Something else that took me by surprise was the fact that one company told me they were members of a Competent Person’s Scheme but a bit of digging on the website confirmed that they weren’t. If they are prepared to be dishonest about that, what else are they being dishonest about? Another common theme was the general reluctance to put quotes in writing. Often, they were sent by text and WhatsApp and some companies went dark when I asked for a written quotation, something I hadn’t expected.
Deposit protection is so important
It was clear that some tradespeople were not even aware of deposit protection or why it’s so important for the customer. One wasn’t even clear how credit card payment protection worked, and I had to explain it to him. Some were also unwilling to take credit card payments at all, often citing the charges they incur. But in the current climate, when some companies are struggling and are ceasing to trade, it’s so important to be able to protect the customer’s money.
How to get it right
If my experiences are being replicated across the door and window industry, it is a concern. If installers want to run an efficient and profitable business, I believe providing good service is key. I would say to any installer: don’t promise what you can’t deliver. If you are too busy to quote or know you cannot take on a job, tell the customer. Write everything down clearly. Provide peace of mind by protecting customers’ payments and ensure they can pay in the way that’s best for them. Be aware of current regulations and provide the right advice first time and communicate at every step.
For consumers, my advice is that if someone says they are part of a registered scheme, check. Get everything in writing and be wary of anyone who is reluctant to do that. Protect your payment at all costs and pay by credit card where you can. Most importantly, though, if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t and don’t be pressured into something that feels off.
To me, these simple steps should be automatic, but my experience tells me otherwise. To ensure a healthy industry, customer service should be at the forefront of every installer’s business.
DGCOS is a consumer protection scheme and was founded to give consumers the confidence and peace of mind when buying from accredited installers, offering advice to both installers and buyers.