Could the Corona virus outbreak be a watershed moment for the home improvement industry?
As a nation we love improving our homes, whether that simply be just decorating them with a different colour paint or exploring the garden centres for plants to brighten our outdoor spaces right through to upgrading kitchens, bathrooms, changing windows and doors or adding large extensions.
From the early days of the replacement window and door industry, and as this developed into the conservatory market too, the modus operandi has remained much the same. The homeowner enquires with a given chosen company, who arrange an appointment for one of their sales representatives to visit and assess their requirements with a view to presenting a quotation.
Whilst fundamentally this would be a perfectly acceptable scenario for many potential consumers, this process became one of fear and trepidation as the ‘hard sell’ and unscrupulous employed tactics in the home that lead people to feel uncomfortable and often resulted in purchases being made in haste and at much inflated prices in order to extract the miscreant from their home.
For those of us within the industry, as at Wolverhampton Glass, who prefer to take the opposite approach to the aforementioned by listening to the needs of the customer and retiring to provide a quotation for perusal, we were left with the constant challenge of being able to persuade potential customers that we would not be the type that sat in their homes for hours end, pretending to ring the manager or offering huge discounts if you signed today.
So, some 45 years on we find ourselves in a situation probably none of us ever imagined possible, and unable to visit any potential customer. But life has moved on since the mid-seventies and technology more so than anything else so perhaps not everyone considering improving their home needs that visit at all anymore? The more innovative window and door companies are already able to provide accurate quotations without needing to visit the property. At Wolverhampton Glass for instance, we have software that can superimpose proposed new designs onto photographs of your home, digital brochures that can be e mailed across, detailed quotations that can be signed and returned at the customers leisure and we have now introduced the virtual appointment.
Even those who thought they never would succumb are more engaged with their smart phone or tablet than ever before. Everyone can download an app. As a good friend of mine likes to remind me, if software was too complicated to use the likes of Amazon would not exist. Wattsapp, Facetime, Skype, Messenger have allowed us to maintain that personal connection with a customer without the need for a visit. The homeowner can point their device at an area of proposed work, they can photograph and e mail it and they can approximate any dimensions; all allowing us to provide a quotation that can be ratified with an onsite survey. There is no fear of someone overstaying their welcome and applying undue pressure, but the homeowner can still see who they are dealing with.
Personal conversations between a prospective customer and a business remain crucial for both parties to ensure a full understanding of both the needs of the customer and the offerings of the business are clear. For the consumer a salient point should be heeded, the rogue may no longer be sitting in the home but hiding behind a keyboard where false promises in text are as just as easy to make. Before committing, research the company, check reviews and ensure you have that visual conversation to make a judgement. They should also beware the trap of gathering quotations and accepting the cheapest price available – it is very likely that it will not hold true once the provider arrives at your home to survey!
Inevitably sourcing quotes remotely will not suit everyone, and many will still prefer to have a professional visit them, as all reputable companies are happy to do, but the world as it is today may just change the way many in future opt to do business.