Getting down to business: How important is PRICE?
We’re talking to Tina Moorhouse, MD of Oakland Glass Ltd, suppliers of specialist glass and sealed units to the construction industry. Our subject – the perennial argument of price versus service and quality.
JC: Tina, you’re in a highly competitive business. What would you say are the main issues for new customers?
TM: All of our customers are different. We do have enquiries from new buyers which start with ‘how much’ but they are few and far between. It’s possible that we’re sending signals that we’re a quality supplier and therefore those looking for cheap as a priority are going elsewhere. In the main, new prospects are more likely to ask technical questions, whether we can supply something special they need or how our delivery schedule works.
JC: So, you’re not seeing price as a priority for your business?
TM: Not at all. That’s not to say we ignore it. That would be a crazy move for any business, but our focus is on quality products and excellent service. We find that most customers appreciate and understand that fair prices are a more sensible approach.
JC: Can you explain what you mean by that?
TM: Certainly. A business that offers rock-bottom prices can’t sustain quality or service. A one-off order may be delivered successfully and, for a certain consumer, a poorer quality sealed-unit may suffice. But ultimately that poor quality, that lack of choice and compromised service, restricts the customer’s ability to sustain their business. Poor quality and service tarnish the customer’s own reputation. It’s a vicious circle and there aren’t any winners.
JC: So if price isn’t the most important thing, what is? Is it service or quality?
TM: That’s a tough question because every customer is looking for something different. One may want a certain delivery day, assured and reliable. Another loves our Oakspecials service and relies on our continuity and understanding to get exactly what they need. A third may trust in our laminated glass. Perhaps you could sum it up by saying that customers are looking for a relationship with their supplier.
JC: That sounds a bit odd in a competitive market. Don’t people like to shop around?
TM: Yes, of course, they do! We wouldn’t expect them not to keep their eyes and ears on the market, but customers need a good reason to move suppliers. Our job, as a business, is to build loyalty and we do that by offering what our customers want, working with them on new ideas and ventures and by being willing to go the extra mile when other suppliers won’t.
JC: You’re building trust?
JC: And isn’t keeping your prices under control part of that?
TM: I knew we’d get back to price! And yes, you’re right, it is. But we keep our prices reasonable not by offering poorer quality or reduced levels of service, but by shrewd management of our costs and investment.
JH: That’s a long-term approach.
TM: Yes, but then we’re here for the long term, which some of the cheaper operators won’t manage. Once their customers start rejecting them for failed units and missed delivery slots, they won’t be in business long.
JC: Failed units and missed delivery slots – we’re back to quality and service?
TM: Yes, quality, service and price. They all matter, but we’re sure that in putting price at the end of that wish list, we’ve got our priorities right.
JC: Well, thanks for that, Tina. It’s been good to talk.
TM: Your welcome.