Managing customer expectations during and after the sale, is as important as the sale itself. Of course, we all have expectations that the screens, blinds or shutters we buy should be functional and free from fault and above all they must look great.

However, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, they say. By what yardstick are we measuring quality? And by who’s authority can we determine if something is functional.

Anyone who has been in retail knows that failure in setting limits on the expectations of our customers, can sometimes end in tears, or worse. Any number if indeterminable issues can cause our customers to become hostile when we are chasing the final balance. The easiest thing to blame being the quality of the installation or the product itself.

·       The blind or shutter is letting in too much light.

·       The chain on the blind is too long or short.

·       There are ripples in the fabric.

·       I don’t like the stitching on the hem.

·       It has taken too long and I want compensation.

·       The colour must be wrong because it doesn’t look like I expected.

·       There is an uneven overlap on my vertical blinds.

·       You told me………Bla Bla Bla

Etc. etc. etc.

The sad unfortunate truth is that if we and our staff are not trained in handling these issues they will cost us Time, Money and Reputation. So, if we look at what can go wrong we can then be in a better position to manage any situation if required.

I encourage everyone selling blinds to openly discuss with their customers not just the beauty and benefits of each blind type but also the features some of which may not be ideal for the intended use. Ultimately the customer must take ownership for the buying decisions.

It is important to use your store display to ensure your customer knows what type of blind they are buying, as well as any options that might be associated with that product. Also, your customer needs to know the characteristics and limitations of the blinds they have chosen.

Numerous times we have received complaints of how much light a blind lets in, or the size of the gaps in the case of roller blinds, or that the shutter blades don’t close as anticipated, or the overlap on their vertical blinds is not consistent. These traits are typical of what you would have on display, and it is a wonderful tool to be able to refer to our display in these instances.

We must also consider whether pushing the boundaries to get the sale are worthwhile. Just because a fabric is available 3000mm wide, does not mean we should sell a roller blind that wide. Issues such as veeing and bagging will probably occur so we should expect a call from our customer, unless, they have been made fully aware of the potential problems and have signed off.

On the Artessa website there are recommended Terms and Conditions for you to use. These Ts & Cs outline what your customer can expect regarding ordering procedures and delivery time frames. Conversely, they outline what is expected of the customer in choosing the correct products and payment terms. Of course, these Ts & Cs are not compulsory, I am not trying to tell you how to run your business. They are there if you choose to use them.  

Also, you will find product specifications outlining benefits, features and characteristics of each product. Some of which will not be ideal for the customers intended use so they need to be addressed.

Issues raised include

·       Our shutters are imported. Don’t order them if you are not prepared to wait.

·       Shutters will not block out all the light.

·       Back roll roller blinds will block out more light than forward roll.

·       It is harder to get to the chain on forward roll roller blinds.

·       Roller blinds wider than 2400mm can have veeing or rippling in the fabric.

·       Roman blinds should be outside mount.

·       Vertical blinds will usually have an uneven overlap on the last 2 blades.

Etc. etc. etc.

Artessa currently has a defect rate of about 3% which we are continually trying to improve. In many instances the installer can rectify these defects so the clear majority of jobs will be installed without an issue. We need to have procedures in place to handle issues so that nothing gets out of hand. This will give you the reference point to make your own determination as to whether your customer has a valid claim or not.

Importantly one thing I have learned in 22 years making and selling screens, blinds & shutters, is mistakes will happen. Customers will judge us not on there being a mistake, but how we handle and rectify it. This is how loyalty is built.

It is also imperative to be able to identify the cause of any issues to determine who is responsible, not so much to lay blame, but in getting any issues rectified quickly at minimal cost.

Should your installer find an issue with any product offered by Artessa or any other blind manufacturer for that matter. He should not raise it with the customer until he has asked the store for advice as this is where that shit and the fan are at their closest.

Product Flaw

Of course, if there is a definite flaw in the product that is not explained by anything in the product specs then he should

1               Say nothing adverse that would upset the customer.

2               Advise the Artessa Rep he may have a solution.

3               Advise the store.

4               Finish the remainder of the job.

5               Take photos to adequately explain the issue as Artessa requires this to start a rework

6               Do whatever the store has then advised.

7               Return a completed Rectification Report to the store for actioning.

 

Missing Parts

Artessa encourages all installers to hold a spare parts inventory. However, if there are parts missing that prevent the installer from completing the job he should.

1               Say nothing adverse that would upset the customer.

2               Advise the Artessa Rep, he may have a solution.

3               Advise the store.

4               Finish the remainder of the job.

5               Take a detailed list of the items required to finish the job with photos if necessary.

6               Do whatever the store has then advised.

7               Return a completed Rectification Report to the store for actioning.

 

It doesn’t fit

It is surprising how many times the blame is shifted in this instance. It is also surprising how often a fix can be found if the participants are open and honest.

1               Say nothing adverse that would upset the customer.

2               Advise the Artessa Rep he may have a solution.

3               Advise the store.

4               Finish the remainder of the job.

5               Take photos to adequately explain the issue as Artessa requires this to start a rework or reorder process.

6               Do whatever the store has then advised.

7               Return a completed Rectification Report to the store for actioning.

 

Customer is unhappy with the product

This is where things get a little grey as the installer is not privy to any of the sales negotiations so he should.

1               Not agree or side with the customer (refer to paragraph 2)

2               Advise the Artessa Rep he may have a solution.

3               Advise the store.

4               Install whatever the customer will allow you to install

5               Do whatever the store has then advised.

6               Return a completed Rectification Report to the store for actioning.

 

Limit potential problems

The Measure

Ensuring the job is specified correctly is one of the most important step in limiting any possible problems. It is not the job of the measurer to pick colours, layout codes, control or hinge sides unless you and the customer have approved them to do so. The more information you can give the measurer the less chance of any problems at this stage.

The Pheenix program available free to Artessa customers will assist the sales person in specifying the job, quoting the customer and issuing a check measure form to the measurer. I urge anyone not currently using this service to consider it. Recent updates have made the program very user friendly.

If a carpet measurer makes a mistake he can usually fix it:

 

If a blind or shutter measurer makes a mistake:

 

 

With very few exceptions every blind and shutter you sell will have been custom made to fit your customer’s windows. Blinds and shutters can not be stretched to fit, and they are not easily made smaller.  So measure accurately. I strongly advise asking the person you intend to install the blinds to measure the blinds.

Usually a contract installer who measured the job will leave no stone unturned in trying to fit and complete the job as he should be responsible for the measure.

I strongly recommend using an order sheet or check measure sheet specific to the product you are measuring as this will ensure you don’t miss vital information. The person measuring also needs to confirm that what has been sold is able to be done. In some instances even though a customer might want inside mount blinds, this might not be possible, if the window has obstructions such as locks or louvers preventing this. This is the responsibility of the person measuring.

Artessa offers free measure and installation training to any customer wishing to arrange this. Training takes place at out premises and onsite at actual installations. Stores who have taken advantage of this usually find benefits almost immediately.

 

The Supplier

Once the job is specified correctly then measured, send the order to the supplier on their order form in their preferred format. If the supplier wants opening sizes give them opening sizes, if they want make sizes give them make sizes. If they want the order via email send it email. Fax is so last century anyway. By eliminating potential issues we are eliminating likely issues.

Delivery times offered by any supplier are offered in good faith. Delays in manufacturing can occur if the supplier is waiting on stock. Some fabrics Artessa offers are held in Melbourne and can take 7-10 days even without a hiccup and sometimes we are not notified of out of stock fabrics until they are due. Each supplier will have certain fabrics that are easier for them to obtain, please work with your preferred supplier to sell these to eliminate delays. In the case of Plantation Shutters, shipping delays need to be accommodated so do not make promises on delivery times outside of those recommended.

NO manufacturer is free from making errors, so unfortunately you will experience times when things will go wrong. At Artessa we have many checks and balances, including a QA system where each blind is supposed to be inspected before it leaves our factory. Our plantation shutters are specified onto CAD drawings before anything is made. Unfortunately human error is unavoidable where any customisation occurs.

It is incumbent on the supplier to address any faulty product or manufacturing error as soon as possible. In order to assist in speeding up any rectification work, supply photos and a solid explanation of the issue to the supplier as they need to know what went wrong be fore they can fix it. It is hard for a supplier to refute a claim if you have proof of the issue and supplying all the relevant information will expedite a resolution.

The blinds need to then be shipped to you. This can be problematic in itself. Recently we sent a number of parcels to a store in central NSW only to find two parcels went to a private address in Victoria before being sent to another business in Brisbane before we could arrange for them to be sent to the original address in NSW. You would expect better of a national carrier. However, this is just another potential issue that we must be prepared to attend to.

 

Installation

If a job has been specified correctly, if the measurer has got it right and the supplier has done their job, the installation should be easy. Not that all installations are easy, brick fixing, working off a ladder, jobs in hi rise projects all present potential problems. However, it is expected that any of these situation should have been noted at the time of sale, or at the very least at the time of measure.

Impatient installers are to be avoided at all costs. Speedy installers are great but impatience leads to un-necessary errors.

Instances where an installer fits a blind into a window without making sure it is the correct window runs the risk of ending up with a blind too big as a slightly smaller blind wont look out of place in a slightly bigger window, but when he tries to put the slightly bigger blind into the slightly smaller window, Problem. And we see this often. Having a convention where every measure starts at the front door and progresses clockwise is a great assistance. This should be the same for quoting purposes.

There are a few tricks of the trade that can be used in certain situation where some blinds could be made fit without the customer being made aware of any problem. However this is the exception, not the rule. Examples include. Using extension brackets for verticals, taking tin snips to a venetian headrail, swapping the controls on a roller, trimming a few mm of a roller tube and bending brackets can all work a treat. Patience and thinking outside the square is the key. Remember there is no right way or wrong way as long as the blind fits and looks good.

Installers should not go to the customer advising of an error until everything that could be fitted has been. Leaving a job half installed leads to disaster as the customer will then pick over everything that looks incomplete. Plantation shutter are a particular item that should not be left unfinished. If one shutter is wrong, by ensuring the remaining shutters are finished and look good, the customer will not be anywhere near as unhappy as if the whole job is left in limbo.

Some contract installers will leave a job unfinished if they feel they cannot complete and get their invoice in. Please do not allow this to happen.

Should there be any reason that the installation can not be completed, the installer should first contact the salesperson responsible for the job to explain the issue and seek advice. The installer should definitely NOT blame anyone for the problem as this only leaves the customer without confidence. Nor should the installer side with the customer without understanding the full story.

We have had installers taking blinds back to the store because the customer has said they were the wrong colour, when in fact the blinds were exactly as ordered. We’ve had customers call saying the shutters looked terrible, when the installer was still onsite and far from finished.

Advising the customer of a problem with their installation is always more palatable if you can tell them what went wrong, and how and when it will be rectified.

 

Customer Complaints

In the event there is a problem with the product at installation do not allow a customer to dictate the conversation at this point. Just because there is a problem doesn’t confer any right for the customer to get discounts or refunds. Of course you can if you wish but as long as we rectify any problems in a timely manner we are not obliged to and our reputation will not be tarnished.

There have been many occasions where a customer has used faulty material or poor workmanship as a reason to complain when pure and simple they have changed their mind on what looks best in their home.

Recently we had a customer complain about the quality of the shutters he had received. He was talking of discounts and refunds but on inspection and listening to the customers concerns there were only a few minor quality issues that were rectified in 20min. we eventually found his real beef was the time it had taken to complete the work.

It is vitally important to determine what the problem is when we receive a customer complaint, and I cannot stress enough how asking the customer to put their grievance in writing is. Having a grievance in writing allows us to view and address each point of contention.

Rest assured Artessa will not run from a problem which we are responsible for or one we can assist you with. But this does not mean we will allow the customer to walk over us.

Every consumer in Australia has certain right under consumer law.

Products must be of acceptable quality, that is:

  • safe, lasting, with no faults
  • look acceptable
  • do all the things someone would normally expect them to do.

Acceptable quality takes into account what would normally be expected for the type of product and cost.

Products must also:

  • match descriptions made by the salesperson, on packaging and labels, and in promotions or advertising
  • match any demonstration model or sample you asked for
  • be fit for the purpose the business told you it would be fit for and for any purpose that you made known to the business before purchasing
  • come with full title and ownership
  • not carry any hidden debts or extra charges
  • come with undisturbed possession, so no one has a right to take the goods away or prevent you from using them

The only time a consumer is entitled to a refund is if there is deemed a major problem.

 

What is a major problem?

A product or good has a major problem when:

  • it has a problem that would have stopped someone from buying it if they’d known about it
  • it is unsafe
  • it is significantly different from the sample or description
  • it doesn’t do what the business said it would, or what you asked for and can’t easily be fixed.
     

Conclusions

Problems only affect a small portion of jobs so the vast majority of jobs will be installed without an issue. Any delay in completing the job is distressing to everybody involved, but delays do happen from time to time and we need to be able to deal with them. These steps should assist.

  • Make time for you and your staff to get adequate training.
  • Use your blind display to assist your customer in making decisions.
  • Refer your customer to the Artessa website for Product Specifications including Pros and Cons before they make a purchase.
  • Advise your customer of expected delivery times. If they are on a tight timeline avoid imported products including Plantation Shutters.
  • Provide the customer with a copy of the Terms and Conditions of sale.
  • Supply the person measuring with as much information as you can so all they are doing is checking the measurements.
  • Specify any orders with all the relevant information in the preferred format of the supplier.
  • Proposed changes to any order need to be in writing.
  • In the event of any problems at time of installation ensure pictures are taken and that a full explanation is give to the person responsible for the rectification.
  • Advise the customer of the expected time for any rectification work.
  • Customer complaints regarding the products performance should be first referred to the store display then the product specification sheet before being referred to the supplier. It is not the suppliers fault if the customer has made the wrong choice.