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Walk the talk

Just when you thought the industry had become more professional and it was safe to admit to being involved in windows, Which?, the consumer magazine, has unleashed another scathing report (November 2002). Which? found that six out of ten respondents had experienced difficulties with double-glazing firms.

The industry can do without the publicity, but this time it's not just the cowboys who are in the dock. According to the survey, around three quarters of Anglian, Coldseal, Zenith and Staybrite customers experienced problems, compared with half of those using independent companies. Everest caused the fewest problems of all the nationals but 62 per cent of its customers still had difficulties.

Customers complained about delivery and installation, poor customer service and high-pressure sales techniques. One reader felt pushed into buying new windows after a national chain salesman stayed at his home from 7pm till 1am. And companies aren't good at putting their mistakes right: on average a quarter of customers of national chains were very dissatisfied with the way their complaint was handled.

Helen Parker, Editor of Which? said: “Our survey shows that double glazing companies, particularly national chains, are failing to provide trouble-free service, and tend to charge more than independents for the same number of installations. Your safest bet is a personal recommendation of an independent or regional firm.”

Many reputable, hard working independents deliver good service. But, even discounting the cowboy element, this is hardly a ringing endorsement. Many say they ask customers for feedback, and rectify shortfalls promptly. But either they're exaggerating and don't seek feedback, or they're not listening to what it's telling them.

Yes companies need to be seen to be different and promote themselves vigorously, but they also need to 'walk the talk'. Branding is not just about logos, positioning and emotional values - the soft stuff. Effective branding needs a hard core to support a USP and ensure your customers receive the same product or service in the same way, to the same high standards day in day out. Network Veka, for example, ensures such consistency by auditing installers' work. But the real test is customer satisfaction, and the homeowner cannot claim the guarantee unless they submit a satisfaction survey to Network Veka. We feed back the results to members so they can see how they do compared with the rest of the network. Average satisfaction levels are a high 97% based on 50,000 submitted returns.

Without that hard inner structure your brand will let you down with a bump, as the national chains have discovered to their cost.

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