Buying custom office furniture online doesn't have to be a mystery. The key is to build trust with your supplier. Here are a few questions to ask:
Where is the company located? Can you reach them by phone? You want to be able to pick up the phone and speak to a real person about your order, especially if the furniture will be made to order. Think twice about sending money to a furniture company if you cannot determine from their website where the business is located, or how to get in touch with a live person. A reputable business will not hide this information.
Do they make the furniture themselves? If not, where is it manufactured? Hand-built furniture is an investment and you want to know exactly what you are getting.
Are technical drawings available? Just as you would bring measurements of your room to a furniture store, when buying online you want to be absolutely sure the furniture will fit your space. Diagrams with precise measurements are essential, especially for a large piece. When buying a piece with electrical wiring, such as a conference table, many clients opt to have the installer or electrician come in advance to measure the space and compare with the diagrams.
Are material samples available? If you are concerned about whether your new table will look the same in your dining room as it does in the photo on the website, samples of the actual materials can be very helpful. Note that samples of heavy materials such as granite or metal can be expensive to produce and ship. Many furniture companies require potential customers to purchase samples. This charge is usually deducted from your furniture order.
What are their payment terms? Does the price include freight? Be sure your quote itemizes all charges, and clearly indicates any charges which are not included such as freight. (Freight charges are often based on weight and sometimes cannot be calculated until the size and design of the piece is determined.)
Do they have a showroom open to the public? If not, can you visit their facility? Having a public showroom is not a necessity. After all, the benefit of online sales is to connect with customers all over the country and the world, who wouldn't be able to visit a showroom in a city far away. If there is no showroom, the company should be agreeable to you visiting their factory/facility, distance permitting. On a factory tour you should get to meet the artisans and see the furniture being made -- maybe even your own piece.
Can you see examples of their work in your area? If they have no showroom and you cannot travel to their facility, ask if there are examples of previous sales in your area which you can view. An established business often has a history of happy customers who are willing to let others visit on-site and see the furniture. Of course this will largely depend on your location: if you live in a major metropolitan area this is a much more likely option. An added benefit to visiting a past client is getting to speak with them about their experience working with the furniture company.