The kitchen and bath industry is being flooded by a wave of exciting new products, but the key to a solid working relationship between manufacturers and design professionals goes above and beyond mere product.
That message was conveyed in no uncertain terms at last month’s Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS), where 500+ exhibitors displayed the latest in products at the same time leading suppliers were being told that while innovative, high-quality products are essential to success, they’re merely a starting point when it comes to meeting the needs of today’s designers.
In reality, kitchen and bath designers, as much as ever, are expressing a need for supplier partners that distinguish themselves by providing “above-and-beyond” customer service, particularly in terms of ongoing communication, relevant support and overall responsiveness to issues that unexpectedly arise.
In other words, successful designer-manufacturer partnerships involve more than merely supplying and specifying beautiful and functional cabinetry, countertops, appliances, hardware, accessories, “plumbingware,” lighting and related products. Designers, more than anything, want suppliers that go the extra mile – and those who demonstrate they truly care.
Manufacturers attending Kitchen & Bath Design News’ third annual KBIS “Insights” breakfast were told, for example, that while designers feel most of them do an admirable job, a considerable number are expressing a concerted need for more detailed and easily accessible product information, sales training and marketing support – specifically in terms of research into consumer style and design preferences, demographics and lifestyles.
Suppliers at KBDN’s Orlando breakfast were also told that 1 in 3 surveyed designers say that a significant number of suppliers fail to meet expectations when it comes to providing prompt, reliable and complete deliveries, offering purchasing incentives, having helpful websites or having knowledgeable sales reps.
And there was more. To wit:
- Suppliers were told that only 1 in 5 surveyed designers feel that the products they want are always available within a reasonable amount of time.
- They were told that, while most designers say they see some of their manufacturers’ reps often enough, only 1 in 20 say they see all their reps enough.
- They were told that while surveyed designers report that a majority of their current suppliers provide “good” or “excellent” service, only 4% say all of their suppliers provide that level of service.
- They were told that more than half of the designers polled indicate they believe manufacturers are far more interested in selling product than maintaining a role as a true business partner.
All of this should serve as food for thought, for all levels of the kitchen and bath product chain. Indeed, everyone shares the burden of raising the bar when it comes to improving working relationships in the design trade.
The good news is that manufacturers, by and large, are apparently doing well in meeting the needs of today’s designers. The sobering news is that, as always, there’s room for improvement.
And that should be a goal that all parties in the industry never fail to aspire to.