We spoke to all our shortlisted candidates to find out a bit more about the businesses that are in the running for the 2018 trader of the year award.
Our shortlisted businesses have to wait until the final award ceremony in London on 23 May to find out who will be crowned the 2018 trader of the year. The ceremony celebrates businesses that go above and beyond to provide excellent customer service in a variety of fields. It often includes some major corporations, many of which go on to use the award in their advertising for the next 12 months.
For the winning business it’s an opportunity to set itself above the thousands of others on the Which? Trusted Traders scheme, showing that is really is the best of the best when it comes to customer service and engagement with Which? and its ideals.
Trader of the Year is a popular award, traditionally closing the ceremony and rewarding a smaller business in amongst some of the giants of the corporate world. The shortlist announcement revealed that there are three candidates in the running this year, including Furlonger Tree Services and Tincknell Heating Services.
The award was established in 2015 – you can find out more about the experiences of our three previous winners, or read on for more on this year’s nominees.
Furlonger Tree Services is based in Box Hill, Surrey. It provides a full range of tree work – including stump grinding, tree reduction, tree felling, and supplying logs – in Surrey, West Sussex, and areas of London close to its base.
Tom Furlonger established the business in 2004, and it’s grown to the point where Furlonger Tree Services has three permanent employees plus regular contractors. The team pride themselves on going the extra mile. Ensuring customers are happy with the service they provide, from the level of communication to the tree work, comes as standard. But if they can give something extra, then they will do so.
A great example is at a recent job, where a tree that had been planted in memory of the customer’s mother needed to be felled after it had grown too big. Tom carved a replica of a Christmas tree from the wood, and gave it to the customer as a memento of this special tree. You can read the review from the delighted customer on the Furlonger Tree Services profile page.
Furlonger Tree Services joined Which? Trusted Traders in 2015. The business has thoroughly embraced the scheme, handing out the Code of Conduct to each customer at the start of a job and using the logo on business cards, workwear, all artwork and on social media.
Reviews are an important part of the process, too, with the team handing out review cards at the end of each job and providing a link to the online review site with their invoices. The Furlonger team check for reviews every day, and respond to all the feedback they receive. ‘It’s brilliant for securing future work,’ Furlonger Tree Services’ Fiona Calverley told us. ‘It shows people that genuine reviews are up on the site. We share the feedback with the team, and it’s great for them. They really enjoy hearing about it and coming up with ideas for getting involved on social media, too.’
The Trader of the year nomination came as a real surprise to the team. ‘It’s amazing,’ Fiona said. ‘We’ve been working so hard to try to get the Which? Trusted trader of the month for ages – and we really weren’t expecting this. It’s a huge achievement to be shortlisted – we’re really proud to be Which? Trusted traders, and it’s a real uplift for the whole team.’
Furlonger Tree Services is planning to organise a day out to say thank you to the team – something active such as go-karting, as ‘they’re all quite physical guys’, Fiona said. They are looking forward to the ceremony, particularly as it’s ‘a great opportunity to just get together and appreciate how far we’ve come.’
Tincknell Heating Services was established in 1960. It’s part of the family-run Tincknell Fuel Group, which has been in business since 1925, serving the farming community in Somerset. These days, Tincknell Heating Services has 25 employees, and provides boiler installations and plumbing across Somerset, Wiltshire, Dorset, Avon and south Gloucestershire.
The well-established and successful business decided to join Which? Trusted Traders in October 2016, as it felt it was a natural fit. Company Director Rob Ormond said: ‘The endorsement scheme is all about quality, and open and frank communication, and that’s what we want. It’s a mark of approval for our business. We encourage customers to go on to the site – we’re proud of what we achieve.’
Tincknell Heating Services has really embraced the Which? Trusted Traders scheme. It makes great use of the Which? Trusted trader logo, using it prominently in its reception area, on screens, in advertising, online and on its vehicles. It also consciously works hard to get reviews for its work.
The business supplies a feedback form with its handover pack at the end of each installation, along with a bouquet of flowers to each customer who has had a boiler installed. The team are keen to take the time to ensure customers are happy with their service, and want to know about any issues that may arise. Customer feedback helps them to directly improve their service.
Tincknell’s Nick Turner explained: ‘Before we had the Which? Trusted Traders endorsement, we didn’t have reviews as such – just phone calls or messages that we’d pass on. Our engineers have found the review service invaluable, as it gives them a sense of pride in what they’ve done. And we find out how the engineers have got on and how well they’ve managed their customers’ expectations too.’
Nick responds to all the reviews left on the Which? Trusted Traders website, and the team print them out and put them on a noticeboard in the office, to share the positive news with the whole team. The great reviews help to generate business, too, with a substantial number of potential customers finding the business on the site.
Tincknell Heating Services was on the longlist for the trader of the year award thanks to winning the Which? Trusted trader of the month award in March 2017. The whole team are absolutely thrilled with reaching the final three. ‘It’s huge for us,’ Rob Ormond said. ‘Nick’s been jumping up and down – the excitement is electric, all around the business. We know what this means for us, and we’re thrilled.’
There are plans afoot for a celebration, but nothing concrete as yet. ‘The great thing about the nomination,’ Rob added, ‘is that the team haven’t done anything significantly different from what they usually do. They’re a fantastic team, and really into customer service. It’s just how they work.’
Best of luck to all the nominees. We’ll bring you all the news about the Trader of the Year award from the Which? awards ceremony on Facebook and Twitter on the day. There will also be a report here on the site following the ceremony on 23 May.