Don’t sabotage our customer service

Rugby Fitted Kitchens boss Trevor Scott is unimpressed by manufacturers who make it difficult to give good customer service and how that rebounds on the retailer

We go to a lot of trouble to ensure our client’s journey, from tentative, first visit through the whole design and sale process, is as smooth and enjoyable as possible.

After all, you only get one chance to create a good first impression, and poor service will tar you and your business with far-reaching consequences. You might well have 10 or 20 highly delighted clients in a row but only one of them will be thoughtful enough to give you a positive review or a thank-you note.

Make one small mistake, though, and despite moving heaven and earth to rectify the situation that’s it – a bad review comes in. And it’s usually totally disproportionate to the event that led to it.

We live in a blame culture, so it’s important that, once the sale has been made, the process of ordering the goods and arranging and managing the installation is done as efficiently as possible. But, of course, we are reliant on our suppliers.

Most times, all goes smoothly, but not always. We recently ordered two range cookers from a well-known supplier, leaving a very reasonable eight weeks lead time, only to be told delivery would be nearer to 16 weeks. Try explaining that to your client, especially when five minutes later they call you back to cancel the order saying they’ve found the same cooker online and in stock.

In the case of the second range cooker sale, the supplier offered a free home delivery and installation by way of apology, only for it to be delivered on an AO.com truck with an installation team wearing AO T-shirts. How well that went down with our client!

“Why didn’t you tell me you were buying my cooker from them? I could’ve done that myself and saved some money.” Very embarrassing…

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What about when you order a set of painted-to-order kitchen doors and accessories that take three to four weeks to manufacture, only for a significant number to be found damaged on delivery. And then you’re told the quickest you’ll get replacements is a further seven to 10 days – and even then, one of the replacements arrives damaged.

Then there are appliance suppliers who misjudge demand or experience supply-chain issues, as is the case now with BSH having no, or a least very few, induction hobs.

We have to learn how to cope with these curve balls and manage our clients’ expectations – rearranging installers’ already tight schedules to squeeze in yet another remedial.

Minimising the damage to our reputation inevitably involves putting our hands in our pockets, but rarely with any, or certainly sufficient, support from the suppliers who caused the problem in the first place.

Credit limits become stretched as incorrect or damaged goods await collection or write-off and a credit, causing our accounts department more work and stress.

Isn’t it about time our suppliers took ownership of the problems they cause us? They’re quick enough to demand showroom space and raise our annual targets, but not so quick at putting right what they have done wrong.

This time around, BSH seems to have got it right, and while it is frustrating being told at such a busy time of the year they have supply issues on induction hobs, at least the bad news was delivered with a plan.

An alternative temporary hob, which will be fully credited and, for once, a generous refitting charge-back as well. This has made a bitter pill easier to swallow.

Take note KBB suppliers, follow their lead and help us all to avoid those unwanted bad reviews.

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