Installation: Dream or Nightmare?

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By David Mercer, Installations Director at Sheridan Fabrications:

I have spent over 20 years in the kitchen installations business and would like to think I have a pretty good grasp of things. I have worked as a Kitchen fitter, Installations Manager, Project Manager and now an Installations Director.

I have gained my experience in the UK and Australia where I worked on many prestigious projects. So, what are my thoughts on the Installations business?

Basically, its that we could all do better. Much better.

There has been much debate on the pros and cons of employed or self-employed fitters, but that’s not why I am here. My gripe is across the board.

We are all in a position to have a positive effect on the end users lives, yet this gift is lost on many.

There are too many designers and fitters who are happy to earn the quick buck and leave a client disappointed. They overpromise and under deliver. They set a customer’s expectations too high and do not have the skills to see it through.

The problems generally start early, and only get worse.

Kitchen fitters can be placed in difficult positions by designers who promise the undeliverable. This can create immediate conflict for the fitter, as often it is them who delivers the bad news that things are not possible.

All fitters will face this at some time, often quite regularly, but this is where things can be manipulated for a successful conclusion whilst conducting the initial site visits. Much is said about ‘exceeding customers expectations’.

When you think of this statement, it is so difficult to quantify. Every customer has very different expectations so how do we achieve this? It starts at the beginning by ‘managing their expectations’. If you successfully manage their expectations, you can (nearly) always exceed them.

You all know from the start what the expectations are, and by setting realistic expectations you should always be able to exceed them. Now I am not condoning setting low expectations as you are still selling the ‘dream’, but why promise what you can’t deliver? Why sell the ‘Nightmare’? It makes no sense but happens every day!

I think many designers fear saying ‘no’ and think they may lose a sale. But customers want honesty and integrity, and by saying ‘no’ you can help reinforce their perception of you and your skills. Say no but offer the best alternative. Use your skills to design the problem away, set their expectations and have a happy customer!

The Kitchen industry has been plagued by rogue fitters for years, but I do think there has been a considerable effort to move away from these in recent years. The industry has been crying out for some form or regulation for a long time, and whilst a fully regulated model like ‘Gas Safe’ is a long way off (and may never realistically happen), much focus is being put into training and CPD which are critical to the success of installations.

The new apprenticeships can be the cornerstone of what is to come, but that is only a foundation. All companies who engage fitters (employed and self-employed) should be self-regulating their teams, providing regular auditing of them and working with them to be better.

The BiKBBI can be an integral part of this by providing these services, but this will only be successful if it is embraced by more organisations. Only when we embrace reform can we hope to build an industry to be truly proud of.

Kitchen Installations is a fascinating area, which brings together many elements. We can build clients dreams, but also create their nightmare.

By working together, we can achieve great things, but it is hard work and requires commitment and honesty. Design and installation should work in symbiosis, both feeding of each other to improve our industry and have many more dreams and fewer nightmares.

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