On that one day, everything changed, everyone thought they saw it coming but nobody thought it really would, a lockdown, and a pandemic so serious that it would force Masterframe, along with many other manufacturers and businesses to close its doors.
In procession of a full order book, it seemed for a brief while that the company could continue to operate the factory, but news from suppliers that they were discontinuing supply, meant that this was not to be.
Carol Slade, Managing Director for Masterframe says “What followed the temporary closure of our business was a time of great reflection by the Directors. We debated on how we could continue to connect with our customers during lockdown. We realised that the challenge ahead was to keep communication alive between the consumer and our installers so that they could emerge at the other end of the lockdown with some really good prospects.
This led us to pursue a path of investing in digital platforms in order to do this, and we engaged a professional company to shoot, at our cost, 360 degree video footage of our Bygone Master Installer’s showrooms as well as our own. These virtual showrooms, along with video spotlights on our product features, allowed retail customers to view our products and indeed our Master Installer’s other products, from the safety of their own homes – it kept the conversation going! It was also for this venture that we were awarded a National Fenestration, Covid Hero Award in 2020.
With our strategy in place for our customers, we worked on the phased return to work programme with great enthusiasm. A new document was produced for our employees containing 50 new guidelines on actions needed to keep us all safe through the pandemic and to give colleagues the confidence to return to work. All necessary actions were taken to ensure social distancing was maintained, screens were installed where necessary, a new hand’s free login system was introduced and every effort was made to make the workplace a happy, yet Covid-free environment. It is testament to this that we have so far not recorded a single case of Covid in the workplace.
There were new challenges every day, but once we returned to the ‘new normal’, as a team we have managed to not only survive but thrive during the year following the lockdown. Fortunately for our entire business and the workforce that are much appreciated, we have not had to reduce any our employee numbers and in fact we have actually taken on more staff.
We have found new ways to engage with our customers with regular zoom meetings and an ‘Installer Hour’ for our Bygone Network of Master Installers each month. We are delighted that this new engagement is providing us with such valuable insights on what our customers are requiring from us to enable their success, and ensuring we take the right steps to deliver on that.
Since the first lockdown we have also upped our marketing game, launching two new websites, one aimed at the consumer, featuring both our Bygone sash window Collection and our Classic Collection available to the trade. The new consumer website is delivering considerably more leads to our Bygone network and we plan to expand our marketing efforts on an ongoing basis into the future. We also have a new dedicated trade website for our trade installers, architects, builders and specifiers to get more specific information on their chosen products and how we can assist them.
In a further effort to keep in touch with customers, both retail and trade, we have gone with the digital flow and attended two virtual Homebuilding & Renovating Shows and recently taken a stand at FENEX 2021.
We have also emerged as company with a far greater empathy and commitment to creating an environmentally friendly factory and workplace. Since the first lock-down we have reduced our paper usage by 89%, replaced all overhead strip lighting with new LED fittings and started investing in a dual fuel fleet of company vehicles along with three charging stations to support these at our Head Office in Essex. Every effort is now being made in the factory and offices to reduce waste at every level and this is an ongoing priority to which the whole team is committed.
We have of course experienced some negatives in the past year too such as supplier shortages, and sadly this has created some issues. We have, however, all worked together to find solutions in order to ultimately keep our customers happy. We believe we now have the very best, most dedicated team in place to make that happen.”
Carol continues “The challenging times have also not slowed down our passion for innovation and the good news is that there are three new products on the horizon that we will be launching in 2021, along with some other positive change that we are certain will be well received.
We truly feel a new sense of resilience within the company and this is no doubt due, in no small measure, to a sense of real gratitude that we have survived the toughest of times. Our busy customers continue to support us and we have some very prestigious on-going projects that we are immensely proud of – the future looks bright and we are all set to embrace it.”
For more information on how Masterframe Windows can assist you with your sash window project or sale please visit www.masterframetrade.co.uk. If you are a sash window installer and would like to talk to us about becoming a Bygone Master Installer please call us on 01376 510410 or find out more her https://www.masterframe.co.uk/become-an-installer/.