Let’s get better at handling customer complaints and stop the blame game
IT IS a really amazing time to be in the timber industry. Review after review affirms that timber is the best material for construction not only because of its inherent performance criteria, but because environmentally it provides solutions on so many fronts.
There is a big BUT…
And it is this.
This industry continues to see the customer as its enemy, and rather than build a truce the industry continues to let old behaviours win the day which consequently pushes our good story to the fringes while it lets dissatisfied customers control industry’s message.
Lets talk specifics.
Decking: We have had decking complaints increase from 2% of decking calls to 35%.
While there are definitely some issues with installation, the rise in complaints regarding timber performance is now overtaking installation challenges. Products such as Treated Pine, Cypress, Spotted Gum, Black Butt and Silver Top Ash are all part of the complaints. Lack of attention to moisture content, and surface checking seem to be the source of most complaints. Most consumers are spending around $18, 000, on a hardwood deck or $8,000 on a softwood deck but the consumers are treated with a consistent line of “it’s not my problem” all down the supply chain. I’ve heard the comment “it’s just not worth us following up on”.
If any of us would be treated with this response by a lawn mower supplier, or an automobile provider we would be surprised, but in our industry….the first action is to consistently deny responsibility.
We get over 600 calls just on decking, and if we are getting that level of complaint then what is the rest of industry really exposed to? This is important. Why? Because how we treat customers affects our overall social license.
Flooring: in a similar manner to decking, flooring complaints have increased a massive
42% for us at the Timberhub. Yes, installation is a major culprit, especially with builders that don’t understand timber (and a lot don’t), however, the rise in poor timber quality is evident and the blame game won’t cut it with customers. When a consumer is being charged $40,000 for flooring they expect to be treated in the same way an automotive company responds to a fault. Identify the source of the problem then deliver a solution. Yes, there are usually multiple links in the chain that led to the defect, but the customer doesn’t see it that way. They see a floor that has failed and want the resolution to be delivered quickly and efficiently. The problem is very few companies stand up and take ownership. At over 1500 calls a year on flooring the rate of complaints is again a significant concern.
All too often we see the end customer being held up as the enemy and not the one that paid our bills. As an industry, we can learn a lot from how the automotive industry deals with difficulties and how to support the supply chain rather than the game of bullying and denial that goes on even today.
While I am aware of the importance of making a profit, there is no excuse in a competitive market for the kind of bullying and chastising of customers that goes on. I have personally witnessed timber companies be incredibly combative with customers and even the consumers, and used their size and corporate status as a club. All I can say is “really? You needed to go there?”.
To gain and hold your social license it is incredibly important for the timber industry, let’s get better at handling customer complaints and stop the blame game and learn to listen so we can always improve (but that’s the message for another article).