We get asked why or how the mailing list and the site came to be by many people so we thought that we would explain out how and why they came about.
Why UK Whitegoods Started
Certain work providers and manufacturers, in particular, did not want their agents talking to one another quite simply the way we saw it, they used the "divide and conquer" strategy to deal with service agents.
They did and still can do this for several reasons, one is so we don't all know what's going on, another is that we don't all know who's being paid what to do certain areas and there is a host of other reasons as well.
So, after being trod on again by a manufacturer in June 2000 the founder of UKW, Kenneth Watt, had enough and set up the Whitegoods mailing list!
Really though nothing much happened with it until early in 2001 when a few members appeared on it and posts started to be made. From that point on it just grew in size and it was realised that there was more than just Kenneth that felt the way he did about the industry. So he resolved to do what he could about it.
In 2002 the idea struck to build a web site for the group to promote quality service and give the trade somewhere to talk and hopefully work out some of the issues that it has.
So, 2003 rolled around and due to time constraints with the arrival of a child and moving house Kenneth simply couldn't devote the time to the project especially since he was working on this privately in his free time and for no reward. Yes, that's right for no reward at all, this site is a free resource for the trade and public alike and there is no intention to charge for its use, ever.
The reason is simple as he says, "All I really wanted is to make the trade more open, a bit better and a bit more respectable for everyone".
Admittedly, the primary goal was to promote independent service agents and to bang the drum for their benefit and Kenneth did fall into that category so we would admit that there was an element vested interest there, even if it wasn't exaclty a huge driver for what UKW became over time.
The State Of Play
Subcontracted service agents are not paid enough for what we do in a great many cases and, also in many cases (which is still more annoying) we get "mucked about" over payments, not paid on time etc., this is the way things have been for many years and customers are getting the raw deal in many ways as we are unable to provide the quality of service that owners should or do expect.
On the whole though, in our opinion, service is often seen by the manufacturers etc. as something they have to put up with and have to have, rather than an extension of their product to the customer these days which is a shame as service and the way customers are treated when service is needed directly reflects on the product and the brand name itself.
When dealing directly with customers on what we refer to often as chargeable repairs (i.e., chargeable to the end user) we started to find that people really struggled to find a quality repairer, picking names out Yellow Pages or whatever often led to getting an engineer that was not capable or familiar with certain products. That was the whole idea behind Repairs@ (now the engineer search), to simply guide people to a repairer that could actually do the job properly and yes, you do have to pay for the services you receive, but then is that not the case with all things in life? In the end, you get what you pay for and if you pay peanuts.. well, we guess we shouldn't have to explain that much further.
As repairers we are forced to cut costs at every turn and that in turn almost inevitably leads to cuts in service, a prime example is that one-off calls in certain areas of an agents coverage area simply cannot be done in a reasonable time without other calls in the same areas as it is just totally not economically viable to do.
Due to instances like above, the service that customers recieve often falls way short of the mark on what they expect and, to a degree, probably should expect.
But we have to do what we can with the tools that we have and decades over under-investment in repairers has seen service levels decline. And when we say under investment, we mean by consumers as much as manufacturers as, in the end, it all comes down to the consumer as they have the ultimate power to dictate what sort and quality of appliances and service that they receive, but going for the cheapest option, as with almost anything in life, will almost never get you the best result.
So, ukwhitegoods.co.uk was launched to let everyone talk to one another and to try to improve and raise awareness of the situation, with any luck it will succeed, even if it does so in part then the purpose of it will be served.
Both this site and the mailing list (in particular the mailing list) have been perceived as a threat to some manufacturers and call handling agencies thus far, it's not unless they have something to fear from open and frank discussions!
Neither is or was "out to get them", that's not the point of it at all. The point is to allow the agents to talk, which some people seem to object to but that last I checked freedom of speech was still applicable in the UK and we are perfectly entitled to talk. We have also laid aside areas in the forums here where problems can be discussed and, hopefully, resolved without doing things the old way. Many of us, the agents, talked anyway by phone etc it just wasn't as quick, efficient or as open as it is now.
UK Whitegoods Name
Why the name "UK Whitegoods"? Well it came about because there were two groups on Yahoo originally, one called Whitegoods for just the service agents and one called UK Whitegoods which was open to anyone in the trade, so it was logical to make the site URL the same.
Many people in the industry did not like this change, but then changes are always disliked by someone, just as we repairers have not liked many changes in the industry over the past decade or so.
In fact there has already been two threats of legal action over the mailing list alone, simply because someone voiced an opinion!
Yet we all would have assumed that it would have been far more constructive to take the criticism and use it constructively to make your position stronger and better after all, that's what we all want to see, a stronger, better and more consumer focused industry.
So, there you go, that's the "why's" answered for the most part and what it's all about and not about.
As we think anyone can see the object is to be constructive and hopefully start to create a better industry and service for everyone.
In September of 2003 UK Whitegoods held its first meeting that coincided with a DASA Coucil Meeting, this was successful and productive as well as being more of a social event than a DASA or similar meeting.
On the back of the success of the first meeting a second one was held early in 2004 which was a resounding success with a great many positive things coming from the meeting. Not only that it allowed many of us to socialise ona level that had never previously been possible, which is one of the aims we will now strive for at any UKW meeting to be held. The point is to make it an enjoyable event as well as informative.
Further meetings, as well as the "Christmas Bash" (a purely social event) were held in 2004 with great success and were enjoyed by everyone.
In 2005 we have had an extremely successful and constructive meeting in February and another is to be held in September along with the Christmas social event.
When the WTA was formed these events fell more under their banner than that of UK Whitegoods.
By September 2010 and again in February 2011 we had a national meeting with the Whitegoods Trade Association hosting over 100 delegates and multiple stands from manufacturers, retailer and appliance distribution companies.
This success continued through future conferences to 2016 with it becoming quite probably the largest dedicated appliance conference event in the UK.
We continually look at making it even bigger and better every year.
Subscribers & Trade Association
Also early in 2004 there was a subscriber level put in place for those that wished to subscribe giving advanced notice of upcoming events and offers of work, full details of this can be found in the forums but we have published an article in this section that should explain that as a separate subject in it's own right.
But this did eventually go on to become the Whitegoods Trade Association as members wanted to go that way.
Th rest on that front as they say, is history.
At the original point of writing the next big thing for UKW was "Shop@" which is a full blown ecommerce store that is being added to UK Whitegoods that will offer significant advantages to the trade subscribers as well as a source of spare parts for consumers online.
The original reason behind this was that we were being asked, almost daily, for spare parts in the forums that people were struggling to find or, find out information on. Ultimately we struggled to find online sources for many spare parts or, we found them to be very expensive so, we decided to do that ourselves.
Of course in 2005 the store went live offering a service to consumers supplying spare parts.
The store also gives UKW a revenue stream allowing all the free stuff to remain that way.
Over time this has grown and UKW is now one of the leading online spare parts suppliers in the UK with hugely positive feedback due to our customer focus and ability to support people both directly and through the forums.
UK Whitegoods Limited
In the summer of 2004 UKW went limited. We decided that there would be no choice but to do so. This has not and will not affect anything that UKW does for the trade nor will it affect the outlook that we have.
Effectively UKW had evolved into a business that required staff, premises and we had to move forward with that to keep it alive and doing its job properly. Apart from which looming VAT registration and other legal requirements forced us down that path.
So yeah, UKW is a business for sure but, it's not like any other business.
Of course in 2004 things really moved on apace as we don't like to stand still at UKW and the site grew in size and membership... and grew... and grew...
The growth was phenomenal, beyond any expectations that anyone had from it, in fact in terms of page views we rolled round about eight times the traffic for the first six months of the site in 2004!
Now there are well over 1600-2000 trade members from all across the world, we get over 7000 visitors a day and tons of page views, over 1.5 million a month.
UKW has become probably the premier English language domestic appliance website. In the world.
We're rather chuffed about that.
Aptly described as "the undiscovered country", none of us really know what the future holds for anyone but, we can assure you that we are actively working towards bringing benefits to the independent trade allowing them to become even better than they already are. The independents have always offered a far higher level of service than any of the large companies, it is the intent of UK Whitegoods to see that it remains that way.
To give you an idea of how we think around here we started a training scheme to hopefully improve the trade through better training, as a part of that we are actively going to be out there, in the field, offering a lot of training free to the independent engineers. we are also heavily involved in schemes to help recruit more new engineers into the industry.
What will happen in the future... who knows?
All text in this article is purely a personal opinion of the author and in no way intended to offend in any way. The article is written without prejudice.
No doubt this article will evolve and be added to through time.