Like most Brits I spend most of my time complaining about the cold, rain, and lack of sunshine. I therefore feel that I should not complain when we have hot, dry weather all summer! You would think with the current weather, nobody would be buying replacement windows or doors. But lo and behold, we have had record sales for the past month.
One thing we always experience is an uptick in service calls whenever we have long periods of hot weather, particularly for doors. All materials expand and contract with temperature, and uPVC is no exception. All of our products have tolerances built in, or use a combination of materials to allow for this. Windows generally have a slightly higher tolerance, so even in extreme weather they will function properly. However this is not always the case with doors. There are several reasons for this.
All of our door products are PAS24 high security as standard. As a result, our doors have multiple locking points (in some cases upwards of 8+), all of which need to be aligned correctly when locking and unlocking. This means you get one of the most secure doors on the market, but it does also mean we have less tolerance to play with that a lower specification door.
Doors are larger products by design - the larger a length of profile is, the more expansion per m is possible. This is mitigated in doors by using steel and aluminium reinforcement to minimise any expansion (or contraction in the colder months).
Colours are much more popular now, especially darker greys and blacks. Darker colours absorb a much higher amount of solar radiation than light colours, meaning they are more likely to have issues with expansion.
Reading this you may feel like there is no hope! However there are practical solutions to solve these issues.
How to mitigate common door issues in the heat.
- Leaving doors closed with the lock engaged. The secondary effect of our door locks is to hold the door leaf in a fixed place. When the door is closed with the lock engaged, it cannot expand and contract as much as it can when it is fully open. The key does not need to be turned - simply pulling the handle up after closing is enough - this is very common in composite doors, where if left just on the day latch in direct sunlight, it can expand, and cause temporary warping or expansion. By engaging the lock, this warping is eliminated entirely.
- Doors which have been left open all day need time to cool down. We see this on French doors frequently, people have left them wide open all day, and then realise later on that the door is now catching on the frame. This is due to the previous point - without the lock engaged, the doors can expand much further than they would normally. By simply giving it some time, the door will return to normal and can be closed normally.
We hope you found this useful and enjoy the summer. If you do find yourself with any issues in the heat, please don't hesitate to give us a call.
Whenwill my windows be fitted?
Everymonth we have a meeting of all staff to discuss ways of improving ourbusiness. Usually if there is a new issue that comes up, we willtweak our systems toeliminate the problem. Without fail, on a monthly basis the subjectof managing customer expectations regarding deliveries is one of ourtopics. If we got this right 100% of the time we wouldn’t have tokeep talking about it!
Iwould like to take this opportunity to explain to all of ourcustomers the factors that have an effect on our fittingschedule. Some of these we cannot control.
Ifan installation team starts on a job on a Monday, and its scheduledto take two days, we will book their next job in for Wednesday.We would normally do this several days in advance. We try reallyhard to get this right as customers may want to take time off work tobe there. We even look at weather and consider the time of year.Installers can fit a lot more in long summer days than in winter.If they happen to be running late or encounter a problem in thesummer they will work late to finish and keep the schedule ontrack. They cannot do this in winter as they are governedby daylight. There are occasions where the actual installationtakes longer than our surveyor has anticipated, the most commonbeing when we take the old frames out and what we expect tofind behind the plaster is not as anticipated. This would meanthat the making good will take a lot longer. We also can be delayed by weather, or if more materials are requiredfor the job. These things do not happen often but if you arethe unfortunate customer who gets the phone call to say that yourinstallation has been put back, we don’t expect you to besympathetic to our problems.
Oneof the biggest changes to our industry in the last few years has beenthe amount of colours that are foiled.Ten years ago if you wanted grey windows they would have been sentfor spraying, but now they are foiledin the colour you require. Unfortunately the extruders onlyrun the extrusion line when they have a specific volume of orders forthat colour. This means that all we can do is give our customers aneducated guess as to when their frames will arrive with us. This canrange from several days to several months depending on demand.Aluminium has also increased in popularity and the lead time on themis two to three times longer than PVC-U products. Just getting aquote for aluminium products can take days due to the complexity.
Theother factors which can delay an installation are damaged glass,failing our quality control and a specification error. We handle500 glass sealed units every week. They have to be manually handledand are very delicate. On average we will damage or break 10-15 unitsa week which will have be remade. This will hold up the specificjobs that these units are meant for. Quality controlat our depots will also show up damaged frames or doors, thoughfortunately not very often. If this happens a remake will againdelay the job. If it is a coloured frame and there is no profileit can delay a job for along time. I can only think of two occasionsthat this happened, but it was very frustrating for allconcerned, embarrassing for us and infuriating for our customer. Ourfinal frustration is when the wrong hardware or handles is fitted toa product in the factory. Usually this can be remedied quickly,but can occasionally delay a job for a day or two.
Priorto scheduling a fitting date and asking our customers to pay for theproduct, we physically check that the goods are in stock andcomplete. This means that if you choose to come and inspect yourproducts before paying, you can always do this if it gives you peaceof mind.
Igenuinely believe that we run this aspect of our business in asefficient a way as is practical, but it is not foolproof for thereasons I have stated. We estimate that 95% of our deliveriesor installations are on time, and rest assured we are alwaystrying to find ways to perfect the last 5%.
Answering some of our most common questions.
" You are much cheaper than your competition. "
In some respects the words above are music to our ears. It is not usually something we hear when we are doing quotations, but is is said quite often to the installers. There is however another aspect to this that is very frustrating for us. In December when things are getting quiet before Christmas, we phone round the quotations that we have done in the previous year that have not resulted in sales. We do this to find out if there is anything we can change or improve.
In most cases the customers have still not made a decision, but increasingly we are told that as our prices were so low the customer bought elsewhere as they feared that there must be some compromise on quality. I would like to take this opportunity to explain the facts and the arithmetic on this subject.
1. Cost base. We endeavour to spend as little as we possibly can on overheads, as the customer inevitably has to pay for these costs in the price of the product. We do not have commission only salesman, who are normally paid in the region of 10% commission on orders. Our depots are also our showrooms, and although we try to show as many products as possible in them, they are not palatial and costly high street buildings. In Swindon for example we are experimenting with only having a depot without a showroom inside. We are doing this as only 5% of our customers visited the depot/showroom that we had there previously. Our surveyors can show samples of most products if you want to see them in your home. We have recently installed a central phone service meaning that one person can take calls for any of the depots and transfer the call directly to the person that the call is intended for. This means we have one rather than three receptionists.
2. Marketing. The most difficult part of retailing windows and doors is finding customers. It is also the most costly. Thirty years ago I was a Director of Weatherseal, which is now part of a national group, so I know the costs that they incurred. Today we have national companies constantly advertising on the television. I would estimate that this represents between 15 and 20% of their sales costs. We currently spend 3% of our turnover on marketing. Every year this cost reduces as our word of mouth and existing customer sales increase, and they have zero marketing spend attached to them.
3. Quality. We offer one of the highest specification products on the market. As you will know if you have examined our website, we do not make outrageous claims about our products, or say that we are the only company in the world to supply a particular type of glass etc. We can backup our claim of high specification - all of our uPVC windows are BS7412 certified, PAS24:2016 certified, and all have a Window Energy Rating of "A" (A+ for our 40mm Triple glazed windows). We don't offer a "premium" option or a "budget" option, our standard window contains the best specification we can achieve at the time of manufacture. Please don’t take my word for this. You are welcome to see and touch almost all of our products in your own home or at our showrooms. Alternatively we can even arrange for you to visit an existing customer.
When we try to calculate exact savings it can only be an estimate. As Safestyle is a Public Company it has to publish figures and from these we can see that in the first half of 2016 their average product value was £599. Our average in the same period was £280. We are approximately 45% less expensive. My estimate of this is that we have 10% saving on sales costs, 17% on marketing, and probably 10-15% on our cost base. I hope that this demonstrates how a business can offer quality and value without compromises.Will Nicoll - Owner of Tradeframe.com