Could Poor Customer Service Cost You Your Business?

by | Jul 4, 2024 | Viewpoint

What does good customer service look like, and why is it important? Business leaders from across the glass and glazing industry came together for a joint Business Pilot and VBH-hosted roundtable discussion to find out. We report.

There is a shadow that hangs over the glass and glazing industry when it comes to customer service, and that is price.

There is an almost universal assumption that the way to win and keep customers is to be cheaper than your competitors, which ultimately leads to a race to the bottom where everyone loses out.

It is not a surprise, therefore, that in an industry discussion – hosted online by Business Pilot and VBH – the focus was initially on balancing brand, quality and price. But it quickly became obvious that this alone doesn’t create the solid relationships up and down the supply chain that are required to win repeat business and build companies.

“As an industry, what we’ve got to do is differentiate on value, of which customer care is a huge part,” Clever Bean Accounting’s Simon Jarman said. “This allows an elevation of the prices to the end consumer overall, bringing in better margins, better cash flow, and more long-term sustainability for the industry.”

Part of the culture

Everglade Windows’ sales director Jay Patel agreed, saying that customer care needs to run through your business and culture, and not something you pay lip service to.

“I believe that if you offer the right level of customer experience and customer care, you are not only likely to hold on to your customer base, but you’re likely to attract more,” he said. “During times of difficulty or times of crisis, people need experts, people need people that can look after them, and I think it’s the same in our sector, the same in any sector.”

Ryan Schofield from Thames Valley Window Company said this approach also needs to run between businesses, as well as within them.

“If our manufacturers aren’t making money, then they’re not going to support us long term,” he said. “And if we can’t make money, then we’re not going to sustain ourselves as a business.”

Business Pilot’s managing director Elton Boocock said it was important to differentiate three separate things that tend to get talked about in the same breath: customer support, customer service, and customer care.

“Customer support and service are what you do to keep the business moving,” he said. “Customer care is something you do regardless of the return on investment. But the reality is I’ve never seen good customer care not return a good ROI.

“But, importantly, your motivation for customer care is because you do care.”

Simon Monks, managing director of VBH, said that understanding the situation from a customer’s perspective, is key to this.

“As a business, we realised we needed to take away as much pain and angst our customers may have about the long-term performance of our products,” he said. “So, we have developed new services that allow homeowners to bypass the installer if there are any issues in the future, which we will manage.”

Jay agreed, saying that a missing handle on an order full of windows and doors, for example, can have a bigger than expected impact.

“We have to put ourselves in our customers’ shoes,” he said. “One fabricator could send a replacement handle in the post and that’s the end of it, whereas we will think the installer will probably have money outstanding on that job, and are wondering when they’re going to find time to send an installer out to change this handle.

“And understanding that dynamic is key to customer care.”

This point was picked up on by Kubu’s Marc Henson, who saw parallels with his own company.

“We’ve actually sent our technical engineers out to go and realign people’s windows for them because they think that it’s a technology problem when it isn’t,” he said. “It’s much simpler and cheaper for us to say, ‘we’ll come and fix it’ than it is to say ‘sorry, it’s not our fault’ and pass the buck.

“It’s the wanting to help solve the problem and making sure that the customer is always happy. That way we call all sleep easier at night!”

Main drivers

Ryan said that from a customer’s point of view these are powerful drivers.

“Decent product quality backed up by customer service – where you actually feel like that there is ownership – is a very powerful combination,” he said. “These are our two main drivers from an installer perspective before we look at price.”

Simon Jarman warned that a business with good product quality and without good customer service is on shaky ground.

“I worked with a fabricator whose strategy was to supply as many different profiles as possible, and went on the acquisition trail to buy fabricators,” he said. “The thought was that if you supplied the profile they liked working with, then you’ve got a better chance of them switching to you.

“However, many of the installers they won only lasted a few weeks because their call centres were difficult to deal with. The business ultimately went bust, and the root cause was having poor customer care.”

Elton explained that Business Pilot had taken this idea one step further, pointing out that customer care should be based on what the customer cares about.

“Our Business Pilot Community is a massive part of our customer care initiative because it is about us really listening to what makes our customers tick,” he said. “In fact, what we learn on our #BPCommunity days often feeds back into software updates and new initiatives. It has been so popular that it is now part of the culture at Business Pilot.”

Summing up, Ryan Schofield said the industry is changing for the better.

“I do think there are a lot more people in the industry trying to think the way that we are,” he said.

Simon Jarman concluded: “Customer experience is absolutely paramount to business success. And that individual business success is what’s going to drive the whole industry.”


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