It’s useful to have a memory, or a sense of history, especially when disputes arise. If only we could have more of this, perhaps we could avoid many of the unhappy conflicts we see around us. Unfortunately, vested interests tend to get the upper hand of reason and knowledge and plough ahead.
Now, having got that homily off my chest, brings me to remembering the time when I joined the industry in 1996. It came as a bit of a shock to me for although I had edited a heating and plumbing title with plenty of horror stories of rogue traders, the glass and glazing sector was, well, a bit rougher at the edges and in the centre as well. Even some of the big boys in the systems companies looked as if they had been given horses’ heads for cuddly toys as kids.
So, when Network VEKA was launched in the same year with John Ogilvie at the helm, it felt very much a step in the right direction. Of course, there were some Doubting Thomases and one obvious question was whether this was just a ploy to bind customers into VEKA’s products. In other words, wasn’t the whole exercise just a clever marketing exercise and would be exposed as that?
Well, we’re 18 years on and few would doubt that Network VEKA has proved to be a success story. In his letter disputing that the newly launched Certified Installer Network (CIN) is a first, John Ogilvie makes it quite clear with figures to back it up that Network VEKA got there first and is thriving. This year, Network VEKA members will carry out around 16,000 installations throughout Britain and Ireland to a value of over £65 million. Since its foundation in 1996, its members have completed around 230,000 installations, together valued at over £850 million.’ If you add to that customer satisfaction with its members’ installations and service reaching 98%, the argument that Network VEKA is a rip-roaring success, appears incontestable. A quick visit to the MoneySavingExpert.com site and you can see glowing accounts of the service, installations and satisfaction.
Except it hasn’t really been emulated elsewhere. Other systems companies have chosen not to go down that route in such a structured way. Have they, or their customers, really suffered as a result? Do they provide an inferior service to Network VEKA? No doubt they will argue a more informal approach can result in similar high standards being achieved.
That really isn’t the point of this column. It is that we have had a mushrooming of schemes that can lead to a bewildering picture for the customer.
Apart from the checkatrade.com, TrustMark and other sites, the launch of bodies like CIN, brings the analogy of cooks and broth to the fore. How it will differ from the Double Glazing and Conservatory Ombudsman Scheme (DGCO), we will have to see.
All have the intention of delivering to the consumer a quality service and protection that is perceived to be lacking. The DGCOS ran into a lot of flak when it was launched and its founder, Tony Pickup, was regarded as an outsider who had to be on the make in some dubious way, even with the support of broadcaster celebrity, Nick Moss. One remembers only too clearly the whispering that went round at shows and other events.
The will is certainly there to come up with schemes that raise the bar and sets the genuine tradesperson apart from the rogue traders. It is just that while wants the 5th Cavalry to be there at the right time, one doesn’t want too many chiefs instead of indians……this topic is so confusing, even the mixed metaphors are getting out of control.
Caption Keeping the customer satisfied but which scheme delivers? Network VEKA claims a 98% satisfaction rate.