Interest in community repair keeps growing everywhere. However, volunteer efforts cannot substitute the need for a vibrant repair economy. We constantly receive requests for advice on commercial repairers: for a lot of people, access to a reliable service makes all the difference between repairing and buying a new product.
Searching for repair businesses is time-consuming and often frustrating. Aside from the price of repairs, many other factors contribute: the quality of spare parts, customer care, proximity and more.
As part of our work with the East London Waste Authority, we embarked on a pilot project researching small electrical and electronic repair businesses in the four London boroughs of Barking and Dagenham, Havering, Newham and Redbridge. We tried to find as many local businesses as possible, and to shed lights on useful criteria to help people find relevant options. Here is a summary of our key findings:
For this pilot, we concentrated on easily verifiable criteria, such as a trading address in the area surveyed; provision of information on warranty repairs; a strong majority of positive online reviews. We found that only 23 of the 152 businesses meet all criteria: 85% of them either fail on either online reviews or don’t provide information on their warranty terms (or both).
We were surprised to find that 52 businesses – over a third – don’t have any web presence at all, including on social media. In terms of online reviews, we only looked at businesses which received at least 5 reviews on platform such as Google, Yell, TrustPilot and Facebook. We decided that 80% of all 3/4/5 star reviews would be a good indication of a business’ reputation. We acknowledge that this process might not favour businesses without a direct online presence. Similarly, we would have expected businesses to communicate more prominently about their warranty terms. Yet, only 39 mentioned them at all on their website.
Here is a short interview with James Diamond, from Hackney Fixers, who worked with us on this project.
This is work in progress – and we’re keen to improve it in the future. Please share your views on our criteria and what else we should be looking for. We’re particularly keen to hear from repair businesses: how can you best inspire confidence in prospective customers and promote more repair? How can your services stand out in a crowded market where some players take unprofessional shortcuts?
Update: one of the businesses has since closed down. Browse the list of the 22 businesses which meet our criteria on ELWA’s website