Managing customer expectations in a high-demand industry

Alumina installation - Flexible bead

The pandemic has required every business in our sector to rethink how it operates whilst adapting to an ever-changing environment.

Demand throughout the construction industry has skyrocketed, thanks to homeowners spending on home improvements instead of social engagements and holidays abroad. Whilst this has been advantageous for many in our industry, it’s come with a set of unique challenges which we’re all having to overcome.

The surge in demand was unforeseen and took the world by surprise. It’s caused global shortages of key construction materials – from PVCu resin, hardware and glass to sand and concrete – together with increasing price inflation. As things currently stand, shortages are expected to continue for at least another few months – so, the question is, what can we do?

1.Be choosyChris Armes installing an Alumina door

The uplift in demand means more potential work than ever before – and while many installers will be tempted to make hay while the sun shines, it’s worth considering being more selective than you may have in the past.

Don’t be afraid to turn down jobs – you know, the awkward ones or those you’re doing for a pittance. If you’re experiencing higher numbers of enquiries and better conversion rates than usual, now’s the time to pick and choose which customers you actually want to work with. Select the jobs where you know you can deliver excellent results – which will help your future reputation.

Liniar Calendar - Planning Ahead2.Plan ahead

It’s important to remember that most installers are in the same boat, no matter which fabricator they use or which window system they install. Raw material shortages aren’t limited to a select few – everyone is dealing with longer lead times and surcharges.

Planning ahead can be difficult in times such as these. While it makes sense to order products as soon as possible, prices may increase – and there have also been stories of homeowners choosing to cancel after learning of longer lead times. That’s why communication is critically important… leading us onto the next point.

3.Manage expectations

Set yourself up for success by committing to having open, honest communication with both customers and suppliers. Communication is crucial to managing expectations and could be the difference between surviving this particular storm… or not.

As an installer, you’re no doubt aware of the current challenges facing the industry (and the world) – but your customers may not be, so it’s your job to keep them informed. They may have heard about shortages on the news but might not realise this may impact their window or door installation.

Informing consumers about industry issues will set the scene if you do need to adjust prices or extend timelines on projects. Additionally, if windows and doors are part of a bigger building project, it’s helpful for them to know about other potential shortages, as timelines could negatively affect the overall length of the job.

4.Protect your business Roofline installation Liniar

While it’s great to work on trust and via handshake deals, in the current climate it’s best to make sure your business isn’t exposed if prices and lead times change.

To avoid potential cancellation issues, consider asking homeowners for a deposit and getting a signed agreement from them before you place any orders with your fabricator. While this wasn’t necessarily commonplace prior to COVID, it’s becoming more popular and there are contract templates available to assist with this.

As well as flexible lead times, it’s also smart to write into your contract the possibility of price changes, to avoid margin dilution if prices surge before delivery of the order – or you could plan ahead by including higher surcharges within your quote. Both of these will help you with point 2, planning ahead.

5.Be honest

If the price you originally quoted needs amending before it’s even been ordered, be up-front with the customer. Point them in the direction of articles that explain the issues impacting the construction industry. By making sure you’re well informed about the latest situation, you can help your customers to understand that last-minute changes are not only possible but inevitable given the current circumstances.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

6.Communicate, communicate, communicate

We can’t say it enough. Good communication is the foundation of any successful business. Whenever you receive an update from your suppliers, it’s essential to digest it and understand how it may impact on your business and the service you can give to your customers… then tell them.

Most people will be understanding if their expectations have been managed – it’s usually a lack of communication that leads to frustration. Even if you’re not due to start a job until two months away, but your current work is starting to over-run, it’s wise to give the future job a heads-up that it may be delayed.

7.Work together

If you need something to share with your customers and can’t see anything from your supplier, feel free to point them to this statement on the Liniar website: https://www.liniar.co.uk/global-supply-chain-disruption/.

Our final advice is to stay loyal to your suppliers. If their service has always been exemplary in the past, we can guarantee they’re not causing you pain deliberately right now. (If they haven’t, of course, then it’s up to you!)

As an industry, if there ever was a time to pull together, it’s now!

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