Colin Morgan is the man behind Homeglaze Home Improvements, the Essex-based double-glazing company that has just won Which? Trusted trader of the year 2017. In what Colin has described as a ‘surreal moment’, the Homeglaze team found themselves sharing a stage with giants of the corporate world including Apple, Samsung and M&S at the Which? Awards in London on the 17 May 2017.

Double glazing as an industry doesn’t have a great reputation. Colin and the Homeglaze Home Improvements team set out to confound expectations and provide excellent customer service, without any of the high-pressure selling associated with the industry.

Colin, his head designer Paul Eyles and Dean Thurogood, their social media manager, attended the ceremony, where they picked up the award from hosts Natasha Kaplinsky and Which? CEO Peter Vicary-Smith.

Read our report on the 2017 Which? Awards ceremony, or read on for more about Homeglaze Home Improvements Ltd.

No-pressure selling from the beginning

Colin and Paul have more than 30 years’ industry experience between them, with both of them starting their careers with national double-glazing companies. Colin was working as a rep when one of his friends started Homeglaze Home Improvements in 2011. He quickly came on board, and bought a half share of the business in 2013.

‘I spent 15 years with national companies,’ Colin says. ‘I used to think “things could be done differently.” In big companies, 30% of the work brought in would get cancelled the next day, because of poor customer service.’

From the beginning, Homeglaze set out to operate differently, steering clear of high-pressure sales techniques and aiming for far fewer cancellations. ‘We don’t do hard selling and Mickey Mouse prices,’ Colin says. ‘We give a price and it’s available for a year. We leave it up to the customer to decide.’

This approach is quite a departure from the industry standard. ‘People told us it would never work,’ he says. ‘It was tough at first, because it went against everything double glazing is. When you’re trying to get a business off the ground, it’s hard to give customers the space to make up their minds.’

But Colin stuck to his principles. ‘I had to believe that eventually people would realise that we were different. Now, thanks to Which?, that’s happening.’

A customer-centred approach

Colin took over the business in its entirety in 2014. He says: ‘It was a challenge. It probably took me about six months to find my feet. Not so much the putting in windows, I knew how to do that, but making sure our customers were happy.’

As well as giving customers space to make up their minds, Colin also took a different approach to the windows that he offers. He told us: ‘All the big companies make one window, and when they visit a customer’s house they’ll tell them it’s the best. We don’t do that. I buy the best windows from each manufacturer, then I give the customer the choice.’

This approach is very unusual. Colin explains: ‘It’s hard work for the business to use five different suppliers, instead of one. The administration can be confusing, but it gives the customers a lot more options. I can get the top-of-the-range windows from all the suppliers. Then we display them all in our showroom and give customers the choice of the best in the market.’

Having a showroom is another part of the business that Colin feels has contributed to the company’s success. Other colleagues in the industry told him that showrooms were old-fashioned and didn’t work anymore, but Colin has found that allowing people to come and visit Homeglaze has been really successful.

Growing a reputation through online reviews

Homeglaze Home Improvements joined Which? Trusted Traders in 2014. Colin was inspired to join after hearing it advertised on the radio. He wanted to get the backing of the Which? brand behind his business.

‘The assessment was tough,’ Colin says. ‘We didn’t think we were going to get in – and we’re squeaky clean. It was a nice feeling to be accepted. Reading through the Which? Code of Conduct – that’s us and the way we work anyway. If you’re a company that’s getting it right, Which? adds to what you’re doing. It gave us confidence.’

One of the reasons for Homeglaze’s win was the high number of excellent reviews that it has on the Which? Trusted Traders site. Colin recognised the power of positive customer reviews early on, and works hard to ensure that his customers will feel happy to post a positive review on the site after dealing with Homeglaze.

Colin says: ‘We do everything we can to ensure our customers are satisfied. I’ve changed windows because people didn’t like the colour, had fitters staying in houses for hours after they were due to finish – whatever it takes to make the customer happy.’

‘Every single customer puts a review on our page,’ Colin tells us. ‘It’s really useful because it allows me to see what’s going on with the work. The whole team, the fitters, the reps all know how important it is to get a good review. From the first moment we meet the customers, it’s at the front of our minds. I think it really helps keep the standard of the work high.’

The ceremony

Homeglaze won the Which? Trusted trader of the month award back in April 2016, which put them on the shortlist for the trader of the year award. ‘We were thrilled to win the monthly award,’ Colin says. ‘That had an impact on the business, and set us apart from the other window companies on the scheme, but the yearly one is a different ball game.’

Colin is a positive thinker, but confesses he hadn’t prepared a speech. ‘I had about five seconds to work out what I was going to say,’ he says. ‘We were blown away by the win. It’s given us a confidence about the whole business and it’s pushed me forward in my thinking of where the business should go.

It was surreal being there, waiting to be interviewed, and a lady said: “We’re just finishing off with M&S and you’re next.” We’re a small firm, with four or five teams of fitters, and we’re with these CEOs of major corporations. It was incredible.’

Plans for the future

Colin is looking to expand the business now. ‘I never dreamed of getting bigger,’ he says, ‘but now I can see how I can grow – my reviews can be seen everywhere. It seems a bit pointless to stay in one place.’ He’s currently looking at premises in Bromley, Kent, with a view to opening a new branch in September.

Conversion rates and lead rates have increased since the win. ‘We won’t pressure them, though,’ Colin says. ‘We’ll keep operating in the same way, and give the same effort to everyone. This is the start, not the end.’

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