“Let’s look behind the mental health statistics”

Faisal Hussain, chief executive of the Double Glazing and Conservatory Ombudsman Scheme (DGCOS)

When we released the Glass and Glazing Mental Health Survey 2022 last month, we could not have predicted the outpouring of support and interest, and in some cases, installers sharing their own personal battles with us. With over two thirds of respondents experiencing burn out, and circa 90% saying they’ve seen an increase in workload since the pandemic, the survey shows the price we’re paying in terms of mental health as a sector. But what lies behind the statistics?

A broken supply chain
We’re all aware of the battering that the global supply chain has taken in recent years. The fact is, it’s not growing fast or sustainably enough.

The challenges of Brexit, new immigration bills, tariffs, containers stuck in the Suez Canal, unpredictable weather and erratic buying patterns are all still out of control and having a significant impact on our sector in terms of supply. Combine this with the home improvement boom at the start of the pandemic, when the UK used a whole year’s supply of fencing and paint in just one month, and we have a perfect storm.

Covid is no longer an excuse
Based on many of the verbatim comments given in the survey, it’s clear there’s something else going on. The majority of people – when asked to say in their own words what the main causes of stress were – named supplier issues. One comment in particular stuck out for me: “Why are materials arriving in the wrong colour and wrong size? Is it because nobody cares anymore?” What a startling message.

Covid can no longer be seen as an excuse for poor customer service. Supply chain, safety and staffing challenges are well-established market conditions now and can no longer be blamed on the pandemic. It’s just part of the everyday problems that occur when running a business or dealing with customers.

No matter what happens, customer and supplier trust must be maintained. According to the UK Customer Satisfaction Index, there has been huge growth in the number of customers prepared to pay more for better service since the beginning of the pandemic.

Good communication is the solution
Poor communication when things go wrong has also been mentioned in the survey, with some respondents saying they just can’t get hold of their supplier on the phone, or that emails aren’t being answered. The stress that this adds to retail businesses, already working at capacity to meet demand, is immense. Therefore, one of the simplest solutions is to talk to each other.

Installers will accept longer lead times on certain products, as long as the supplier communicates the facts. This is something that Thom Emerson brought up in our mental health podcast conversation too, and it’s an issue regularly discussed when the DGCOS supports customers in mediation and disputes. The fact is, when we have all the information – good and bad – we can plan, and installers can keep their customers updated.

What is difficult for installers to accept is incorrect or part-filled orders for no reason other than a mishandled order. This is unacceptable with any buying experience, so why should our industry think otherwise?

Some readers may disagree with some of the conclusions drawn from the survey, and I’d love to hear from anyone who does, to find out if there is something else we need to consider. The survey indicates that the failing supply chain remains a big problem and one that needs tackling head on. The DGOCS is never afraid to talk about the issues that others steer clear of, in the hope that collectively we can resolve challenges in a positive and constructive way, and in so doing, give voice to the hundreds of installers out there who are struggling, and the industry as a whole.

Download the full mental health report here.

Faisal Hussain
Chief executive of the Double Glazing and Conservatory Ombudsman Scheme

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