Hiding behind our knowledge?

David Palmer
David Palmer

By David Palmer, GGF technical officer

One of the most used services provided by the GGF technical department is the technical advice ‘line’, available to the trade and general public alike.

On an all too regular basis, we receive contact from members of the public who are unhappy with their new glazing or window installation. Their unhappiness can range from simple surprise and confusion, through frustration to downright anger.

It’s fair to say that, in the most part, the consumer is wholly unaware of many concepts and conventions that are commonplace within the industry. Issues like nickel sulphide inclusion, thermal stress or the finer points of visual quality go largely unknown by the public until such time as they are unlucky enough to fall foul of the issue.

In doing so, there is every likelihood that the information and explanations they are given by the parties in the supply chain are not only conflicting and in some instances disingenuous, but inevitably result in the consumer seeking support, recompense or even legal representation.

Let’s take nickel sulphide breakage as an example. Typically, the first a consumer knows of the phenomena is they experience a shattered pane, for no apparent reason. On contacting their supplier they are informed that it is an NiS inclusion almost by default, and unfortunately part and parcel of glass manufacture which is therefore not covered by their warranty.

Consumers have told us that some companies will offer to share the burden of replacement costs, but a great many won’t. And so, the consumer is left to pay an additional sum on top of the original cost.

Not only that, but the consumer was not informed of measures they could have taken to prevent or negate the issue. The option of heat soak testing is not commonly mentioned.

There is also the concept of visual quality criteria. This is where perhaps most confusion lies, but also where the consumer’s expectations are generally in excess of the acceptable reality.

Invariably the consumer takes umbrage with the extent of scratches, smears, haze etc. present in their newly installed glazing and on contacting their supplier the reply is usually, like a kind of industry catchphrase, given as ‘these are within GGF guidelines’.

In the majority of cases the glazing is acceptable, but the consumers’ expectations have not been met and they are left feeling somewhat duped.

In both cases, by not broaching the subject with the consumer prior to their order, it could be argued that the supply chain has hidden behind its knowledge.

Some may argue that certain issues are a rarity and so don’t warrant broaching, but to the consumer who is unlucky enough to experience a breakage through NiS and has to find additional money to rectify it, the explanation of statistical rarity is little succour.

If the supplier’s response was that they were not aware of said issue, it suggests further training and/or accreditation is needed to educate the industry to be in a position to give the best advice possible.

It can be argued that by better managing customers’ expectations it relieves aftersales departments of some stressful situations and lessens the probability of poor reviews and even legal disputes. Not only that, but it allows those able and willing to offer additional assurances such as exceeding the industry standards (visual quality) or providing risk mitigation to offer the service as a USP or at a premium if they so choose.

At the heart of the GGF mission is promoting best practice in the industry while inspiring consumer confidence.

To that end, we are reviewing our consumer guidance documents, as well as formulating a pre-sales package which can be provided to consumers to inform their decisions and expectations. We will also look to provide clearer industry visual quality guidelines to eliminate confusion and conflicting standpoints.