Customer Experience : Charlotte & Alan, Buckinghamshire

Jan 27, 2020 | Latest News

Customer Experience : Charlotte & Alan, Buckinghamshire

Simple Kitchens appreciates how much thought, planning, investment and nervous energy goes into buying a new kitchen for a fine home. No one home and no home owner is the same as the next. Each new kitchen is designed to meet the exacting needs of our customers.

Some customers have very kindly agreed to share their experiences, warts and all. We are most grateful.

Charlotte & Alan, North Dean, Buckinghamshire

In a period property with sloping ceilings, beams and uneven floors a new kitchen can present a bit of a challenge.

In this case, it was a space-planning redesign, out with the ornate oak kitchen and in with a minimalist Shaker style kitchen, bringing their garden almost inside.

Read about their journey to a more efficient and lighter place.

Question:
What was it like before you had your new kitchen?

Alan:
What was it like before we had our new kitchen? Well in some ways actually I was perfectly happy, but there was one thing that was really inconvenient about our previous kitchen. The area in which we’re now setting was full of very large, uneconomical units, which didn’t provide a great deal of storage with huge bits of wood. And we could really only satisfactorily seat two people in the kitchen, in the narrow river there is a small table. And even that wasn’t very convenient. We got in each other’s way. And if we have more than two people, that became very inconvenient. And now we have this huge luxury of being able to seat eight people in comfort at this table. And I much prefer the new kitchen to the old one. For us it was a big project economically, so I was concerned as to whether or not it was an economically worthwhile project, but I’m bound to say I’ve come to conclusion that it was. The feel, appearance and spaciousness of the kitchen is a huge improvement on the old one. What do you think darling? Well, I mean, after all it was your project.

Charlotte:
It was my project and the thing was that although it looked quite attractive superficially, it didn’t really work very well and I found it inconvenient. There were things like, there wasn’t a rubbish bin and I had a pedal bin and it was just always in the way. And as my husband said, we wanted a sitting area, so all together, although it was a big decision to make it, we were really glad we decided to go ahead.

Question:
What happened to make you decide on a new kitchen?

Alan:
What happened to make you decide that we were going to have a new kitchen?

Charlotte:
Oh dear what happened?

Alan:
We agonised about it. And it was yes, no, yes, at least in that sequence if not more iterations than that. But in the end, you came down one day and you said you did want the new kitchen. I to be fair, was fairly neutral. And you made the decision because?

Charlotte:
Well, I think it was the fact that we wanted a door to the outside because we were trekking through to the front, which is further. And so this has made it more convenient.

Alan:
And you were doing the trekking?

Charlotte:
And I was doing the… guess who was doing the trekking?

Alan:
Over there, which the camera can’t see at the moment, there’s a door to the outside and it just used to be a window. So I thought… we haven’t got there yet, but we hope sometime in the future there’ll be another summer and we’re just be able to go outside that door, sit outside in the countryside, and, um, avoid all this trekking backwards and forwards through the front door.

Charlotte:
Yes, because you’re taking food outside from the kitchen, you want to eat outside , and so it’s just much more convenient to do that. And actually also the Aga which I loved to bits had to go because it was just too hot in summer. And so now we changed that to an adjustable range cooker and it just works.

Alan:
So you thought if we’re going to spend X thousand pounds on a new Aga type machine, we might as well spend a multiple of that X thousand pounds on a new kitchen?

Charlotte:
Absolutely.

Question:
So what problem were you trying to solve with your new kitchen?

Alan:
Well, I think we were trying to solve a number of problems. One problem, which I’ve already mentioned was the lack of a reasonable seating area, but a kitchen that was quite good in some ways also seemed very tired in its design. And the unit seemed to be very inefficiently manufactured in terms of the amount of space they took and the function you got from them. And in fact the change has exceeded our expectations in terms of the amount of spaciousness that we’ve now got in the kitchen, which we didn’t have before. So that was in a way, an unanticipated consequence.

Charlotte:
It was because the previous kitchen, it was pine and it had columns and pillars and details, which took up so much space and I just wanted a simple Shaker kitchen, which this is. And that’s exactly what we’ve got now. And it’s using every inch of space which was wasted before.

Question:
What was important for you in choosing a new kitchen?

Charlotte:
The important thing in choosing the kitchen was to find people we could work with. And because we were putting a seating area in a place where they’d been an American fridge and cupboards, we needed to fit the whole of the rest of the kitchen into the other half. So we needed a bespoke kitchen. We needed somebody or people we could work with to really get that, to have exactly what we wanted.

Question:
Where did you start your search?

Alan:
So when we began exploring the idea of replacing our kitchen which was probably about a year ago or so. We actually, we actually started with our architect and our initial plan which was irrelevant to the way the project actually evolved was to create the additional space we needed for a seating area by actually doing some building and expanding the kitchen. And in fact that aspiration had been going on for years because we had had problems with planning permission and so on. And having started with the architect and having been for various reasons, reluctant to do really for a fairly large building project, we decided to explore a simpler solution and see if we could accommodate a seating area within the existing kitchen without expanding it. And we went to various sources, including John Lewis and had various people come around to advise us.

Charlotte:
We had recommendations from friends which included, well probably the one of the biggest companies in the country, who were fine but… And we had another recommendation from our architect, which was a more sort of bespoke end of the market and just shopping around gave us different ideas.

Alan:
But nobody came up until we went to Thomas (Simple Kitchens). Actually, until then nobody came up with a design which we felt was satisfactory.

Question:
How did Simple Kitchens compare to other suppliers you looked at?

Alan:
We want to talk about a comparison betweenSimple Kitchens and other suppliers that we looked at who came round, gave us advice, did plans. I think the key thing I would say was not only design skills but a huge amount of patience in being willing to take a lot of time to develop the project in a way that was going to work for us. He’s a very good listener. So it wasn’t only the design skills, it was the social skills and having a lot of patience to understand exactly what we wanted, take us through it, come up with ideas and when from time to time there might’ve been some marginal difference between us about what we wanted, he was very good…he was extremely patient at dealing with any issues that arose between you and I in relation to the design of the kitchen. And moreover, we vacillated about it. We were on off with this kitchen and he was extremely patient, forbearing and charitable in dealing with that in a very unpressurised way and allowing us to come to our own decisions without any pressure.

Charlotte:
And we really liked…well, we liked Thomas and Christina (Simple Kitchens) and we liked using a local company, a small local company and having the sort of flexibility that gave us that we didn’t feel pressured into choosing yesterday. We felt relaxed about really whether we wanted to go ahead with the project.

Alan:
And in fact, once came the stage where during our process of indecision that we informed Thomas (Simple Kitchens) that we decided not to go ahead with the kitchen and he’d already put a lot of work into it and he took that very well.

Charlotte:
Well, he wrote an email saying, I feel your pain. And that sort of just said, okay, well you know, we are struggling with this, but it did just…

Alan:
He gave us the room to make the right decision.

Charlotte:
Yes, he did.

Question:
Why did you decide to ‘buy’ fromSimple Kitchens compared to others you looked at?

Alan:
Why did we go withSimple Kitchens? What was it about Simple Kitchens that made us decide to go with them? It was their attitude to the project. I’d say it was their ability and willingness to cooperate with us, to patiently come to the right design solution. And I think we felt from the beginning that they had good design ideas. One of the things that worried us was obviously having a new kitchen is a disruptive process. And one of the things that influenced us was in advance of the project, we had confidence that it would be done in an efficient and unintrusive way. Do you agree with that?

Charlotte:
Yes. Yes I do.

And it’s a 10! (a humble than you!)

Question:
My next question is going to be on a score of one to 10 with 10 being very important. Would you mind scoring? How important are the following in your buying decision and ultimate satisfaction?

….How well do you think the kitchen met your requirements? 10 being the highest.

Charlotte:
Mm. well, I think 10 actually because we’ve lived with it now for a few weeks and it’s just, it’s just so much more efficient and I’m, I’m finding I’m actually spending less time in the kitchen because everything’s to hand, so I’d definitely give it 10.

Alan:
Well, I’m going to say nine and a half of the nine and the nine and half is probably due to a mistake by you because you’ve got in one part of the kitchen, you’ve got a cupboard where now you would prefer drawers.

Charlotte:
Oh, okay. Right. Yes. Yeah, that’s, that’s true.

Alan:
But nothing is perfect. You know when they make the Oriental rugs they always make a deliberate mistake. They say only God is allowed perfection. So like nine and a half is as perfect as humankind can aspire to.

Question:
My next one is ‘sticking to your budget’?

Charlotte:
Well I’ll ask Alan for this one. Did, did we actually stick to our budget?

Alan:
We didn’t have a budget. I’m not a sort of budget person. I had an aspiration and it’s stuck to the budget, which I knew in my heart of hearts was going to be realistic.

Charlotte:
Okay.

Alan:
It did not stick to the, perhaps slightly over optimistic budget but nothing ever does.

Question:
The next one is ‘our reputation’?

Alan:
Thinking about Simple Kitchens reputation, on a scale of one to 10. Well, we’ve heard nothing bad about them and we’ve only heard good about them, and so I’d have to say 10 and then so far as we’ve gotten the opinion about it, which would add to the total score of reputation, um, we’d give them a 10.

Charlotte:
Yes. And the fact that the project was started, in fact, it took place for three weeks while we were away and I had no qualms whatsoever of going away and leaving Thomas (Simple Kitchens) and the men working here,

Alan:
No, I agree.

Question:
Quality workmanship?

Charlotte:
Excellent, excellent quality workmanship.

Alan:
On a scale of one to 10, the quality of the workmanship I think has to be 10. I hate keep saying 10 sounds – it sounds over-lavish, but I think it authentically is 10. I can think of no respect in which the quality of the workmanship has failed to come up to the highest standards.

Question:
Next one is a ‘single point of contact from beginning to end’?

Alan:
On a scale of one to 10, in terms of having a single point of contact from beginning to end…

Charlotte:
9 and 3/4.

Alan:
I would say 10, because Thomas (Simple Kitchens) was always available. Thomas was our point of contact from the beginning. Thomas was there in relation to every point of the project, before the project started. And he was there throughout the project.

Charlotte:
Yes. And actually while we were away Thomas suggested having a WhatsApp group. And so he kept us, you know, not too much, but he just sent photographs and updates on the progress, which was wonderful because, we knew that actually they were sticking to the schedule and that was very reassuring.

Question:
What wasSimple Kitchens inquiry, design and ordering process like?

Alan:
Thinking about the inquiry process and ordering part of the process….

Charlotte:
I can’t think of anything that was difficult. Everything went according to plan, I think.

Alan:
Yep. And you’re part of the process that was in any way difficult was something not within Thomas’s control, which was the roadworks around Thame. Yes. I don’t think we can blame that on Thomas.

Question:
How did the removal of your old kitchen and the installation of your new kitchen work out in practice?

Alan:
Thinking about the removal and installation of the old kitchen? Well, we made the decision having confidence in Thomas that the removal and the first part of the installation, the removal of the old kitchen and the first part of the installation of the new kitchen would take place while we were away on holiday. And that was really a confidence issue. And it went very smoothly, but we, we weren’t here. But you know there were no consequences of the removal of the old kitchen, which we were aware of, there was no damage to the house or anything of that kind. And for the first part we were away for the first three weeks, and so we kept getting these Whatsapp pictures of the progress. It was all entirely in accordance with the reschedule and indeed in some respects ahead of schedule and it seemed to go very smoothly, but we really can’t comment on this in detail because we weren’t here.

Alan:
Jason the joiner…the joiner, the electrician and the plumber were excellent.

Question:
What were the team from Simple Kitchens like?

Alan:
What were the team fromSimple Kitchens like?

Charlotte:
I have to say, they were absolutely wonderful. They were so, so nice. The sort of people who came in, they were so professional and pleasant to deal with and respectful of our space and… you’re in somebody else’s kitchen. We did have a plastic door between the kitchen and the rest of the house, which did keep dust and things to a minimum, but I mean they were actually lovely. They really were excellent.

Alan:
Efficient, friendly, unintrusive, hardworking, and they were excellent in every way.

Question:
What made you happiest about working withSimple Kitchens?

Alan:
What made us happiest about working with Simple Kitchens? I’ve got to say the good solution to our design problems and the ease of working with them throughout the process, and the efficiency of the installation.

Charlotte:
And the fact that the team all worked so well together and they also worked with our handyman who was coming in to do some of the painting. And we just had confidence in Thomas’s ability to manage the team. He was just…the cooker man said that he was just really absolutely so efficient at keeping everybody doing their own jobs and not getting in each other’s way, and really just making sure all the details were in place so that all the workmen could come in and do their bit and get it done in the time.

Alan:
And they were excellent at fitting in with somebody who wasn’t ordinarily a part of their team, namely our own handyman. And they cooperated and fitted in with him very well.

Question:
How has the new kitchen changed your home?

Alan:
How has the kitchen transformed our home? Well… it’s made it a much more pleasant space.

Charlotte:
It’s lighter. The lighting is more efficient than it was before. It sort of works better. And I don’t know in terms of the whole house,

Alan:
It’s transformed the kitchen area, which is an important part of our lives, ’cause like a lot of people we spend so much time in the kitchen and I think we’ll see another aspect of the transformation…we’re speaking towards the end of December; I think we’ll get another aspect of the transformation when summer eventually comes and we can start using those doors to access much more conveniently the outside of the house from the kitchen.

Question:
What do you think of the quality and the value you’ve got with your new kitchen?

Charlotte:
I think the quality and the value, you know, you got to pay for good quality. It’s an efficient kitchen and it’s beautifully made, and you know, that comes at a Green. I mean, it was not cheap, but we felt that it was worth it.

Alan:
I mean, you make a lot of choices about what you want, which have an impact on the budget. And if some of those tend to be relatively expensive choices then you accept that,

Charlotte:
Well, it’s a pleasure to use a kitchen which is good quality. And that’s what I’ve had before, and that’s what I wanted.

Alan:
I think it’s a testament to the overall value that the question ‘was it good value?’ is not a question that naturally arises. That is a question that tends to arise when you haven’t had good value.

Question:
Did Simple Kitchens meet your expectations with your new kitchen?

Alan:
What exceeded expectations? Our expectations were very high, actually.

Charlotte:
Well, they were, but I think what exceeded our expectations is just the sense of space we now have, whereas before the kitchen….because it was so ornate and bulky and cluttered, it’s given us this sense of spaciousness and it’s just a much more efficient kitchen to use.

Alan:
Yeah. I think how agreeable the space that we’ve ended up with has exceeded our expectations. I certainly didn’t have the vision to see how significantly improvement was going to be.

Question:
What was the main reason you’d recommend Simple Kitchens?

Alan:
The main reason that we’d recommend Simple – Kitchens would be totally straight forward, honest, excellent service and extremely agreeable, and dare I say it, simple to deal with.

Charlotte:
Just efficient working and keeping to the time schedule. That was terribly important for us. And we, we knew that they were not just on schedule but slightly ahead of schedule, so I’d recommend them.

Alan:
It was a bit marginal the day we came home from holiday, but they did put in a lot of extra hours and a huge amount of intense work to give us an area that we could work in that evening. They made a huge effort to make that work.

Question:
How does your new kitchen make you feel?

Charlotte:
How does the new kitchen make us feel? It makes us feel good and actually more relaxed because, the lines are much cleaner, it feels better because it’s just easier to use and that’s got to be a good thing and I do think more quickly because everything’s to hand and so it makes us feel good and it makes us feel good sitting here at our table because we’ve got space.

Alan:
A bit poorer but happier which is the right equation.

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