Why communication is the key to raising industry standards

John Blackburn, managing director of Sheridan Fabrications, suggests we’re all setting a project up for a fall if manufacturers, designers and installers don’t keep talking to each other and work in collaboration to improve industry service standards

In the article ‘Biggest bugbear for kitchen installers revealed’, reference was made to a survey by worktop manufacturer Maxtop highlighting the day-to-day problems faced by templating and fitting teams up and down the country.

The biggest ‘bugbear’, according to the survey, was poorly prepared sites for installation. As the last piece to drop into a new kitchen’s design, it only takes a small element to be out, one detail missed, or one T not crossed, for it all to go pear-shaped.

The customer is likely to have had several weeks of upheaval and living with temporary kitchen arrangements. But isn’t it the survey and templating team’s responsibility to make sure that they’ve got the right equipment and training to deal with those wonky walls?

These types of bugbears don’t necessarily start at this stage. If designers aren’t made aware of inherent design restrictions of a worktop, how can they advise and guide their customer accordingly? If they aren’t given the correct training to match worktop with lifestyle and budget, they are setting the project up to fail.

So are kitchen designers to blame? Not if they keep up with industry innovations and product developments, and that only happens if manufacturers, designers and installers keep talking to each other and work in collaboration to improve industry service standards.

Another annoyance in the survey was longer production times, probably for granite, quartz and solid-surface worktops. These delays aren’t always because of the production line, often it’s the scheduling of the installation around all the other suppliers and fitters for the rest of the kitchen.

Back to the weeks of upheaval, and it’s not surprising that the customer reaches breaking point when dates slip. Which leads nicely on to the ‘managing expectations’ bugbear. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. If you’d been told the likely production times, or that your worktop will have a visible joint, it comes as less of a shock. Forewarned is forearmed.

Unfortunately, with the latest trends incorporating heavily designed worktops, the potential for problems may be on the increase, if adequate training and support isn’t provided.

How do things get better? Are retailers, kitchen designers and fitters missing a trick by not choosing manufacturers with the right support and infrastructure?

If they talked with their feet and worked with manufacturers that not only produce great quality products, but also provide intensive training for their partners, then wouldn’t their own customers’ experience be vastly improved?

At the other end of the supply chain, manufacturers who invest in Fira accreditation, ISO 9001 standards and offer guarantees are putting their money where their mouths are by investing in quality standards. But it’s clear that this alone is not enough. If product training isn’t offered, then what’s the point?

Do retailers need to think less about the bottom line and more about providing the best customer experience? Surely there’s a cost saving in making sure that a worktop and entire kitchen fit goes the best it possibly can? And surely delays, revisits, and refits can be avoided if the correct information sharing and training systems are in place?

The survey seems to be trying to paint a ‘them and us’ scenario, where each blames the other side for mistakes.

Here at Sheridan, we’ve seen installation figures increase by 16% because we invested in training our survey and installation teams. We’ve worked in partnership with our customers and our survey and templating teams to make sure they have the knowledge and information to provide realistic, affordable and desirable solutions. Their bugbears are our bugbears.

Furthermore, with investments we’ve made in new systems, our ‘right first time’ figures are forecast to increase from our current 96%. We’re in it together and we work hard to make sure complaints across the supply chain are minimised.

Whoever has the buying power, manufacturers, retailers or kitchen designers, they have a responsibility not only to provide great-quality worktops, but also guarantee that customer service, training, surveying and fitting are part of the entire package.

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