Cowboys, con men, rip-off merchants – the world is full of dodgy tradesmen whose sole aim in life is to scam as many unsuspecting consumers out of as much cash as they can. At least, it is if you believe the sheer number of warnings the public receives about those in our industry.
Thanks to TV shows like Builders From Hell, horror stories published in countless magazines and, of course, that one bloke we know who’s cousin’s girlfriend’s half-brother’s dentist once hired a dodgy plumber who set his whole house on fire, today’s customers are more than well-aware of that sad truth that there are some tradesmen who simply aren’t up to scratch.
On the one hand, this is good news. After all, it makes it harder than ever for those charlatans to go about their conniving ways. But on the other, it means that even honest, reliable tradesmen have got some work to do to prove to cautious customers that they truly are the real deal.
So, how do you go about inspiring trust in your customers and avoid landing a reputation as just another cowboy tradesman?
Here’s a few of our carefully curated suggestions.
Put it in writing
Everyone who knows you knows you’re a man of your word, but signing a written agreement can go a long way to gaining the confidence of new customers.
Look, nobody’s saying you need to hire a solicitor and draw up some huge, complex document. Simply outlining what you’re going to do, when you’re going to do it by, and how much you’re going to charge can prove hugely effective.
It’s not as if you’d back out of doing the work anyway, but by agreeing to it in writing, you give your customers a binding document that is likely to inspire much more trust than a handshake with a tradesman they’ve only recently met.
Avoid charging in advance
A common scam tactic among the cowboys is to charge homeowners a huge sum up front and then simply do a runner. As such, any time you ask for payment in advance, that’s a big red-flag to your more cautious customers.
If you do need a deposit to cover the cost of materials, keep it at a reasonable amount and explain to your customers exactly what it’s for.
Get your credentials
Customers are far more likely to trust tradesmen who are recognised and accredited by an official trade body, association, or accreditation scheme.
At the very minimum, it pays to join TrustMark, which is the only scheme for tradesmen endorsed by the UK government. As a TrustMark member, you’ll be obligated to sign up to a strict code of conduct and be vetted through an on-site inspector to ensure you’re maintaining the highest standards of workmanship, ethics, and customer care.
This can prove invaluable for your business as TrustMark accreditation gives your business a certain level of credibility in the eyes of your customers.
Oh, and you’ll also get a fancy sticker for your van too.
Elsewhere, you can consider signing up to trade associations including:
- Federation of Master Builders
- National Association of Professional Inspectors and Testers
- National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting
The European Consumer Centre for Services website features a comprehensive list of UK professional bodies and trade associations.
It goes without saying that when you agree to take on a new job, you’ll do it to the very best of your ability, striving to complete work on time and to the highest of standards. Yet despite your best efforts, there are times when unexpected problems do occur.
When that happens, it’s reassuring to let your customers know that you’re well covered for all eventualities. With that in mind, consider investing in tradesmen insurance and let potential new customers know you’re fully insured before you start work with them.
Take responsibility when things go awry
Underestimated how long that job is actually going to take? Miscalculated the cost of materials? Run into a problem that you simply hadn’t considered? It’s up to you to take responsibility and solve those problems.
Remember, homeowners aren’t simply paying for your time. They’re paying for your expertise and experience too, which means they expect you to know exactly what you’re doing and get the job done without a hitch.
Of course, we all know that this is often easier said than done, but going all out to eliminate the impact of those problems on your customers can go a long way in gaining their confidence.
Keep on top of your reviews
You’ve done a great job, you’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty to make sure your customers are happy, and you’ve done it all at a competitive price. Now it’s time to show other potential customers that –rather than some dodgy scam artist – you really are one of the good guys.
In 2017, a consumer survey carried out by BrightLocal revealed that 73% of respondents said a positive review helped them to trust tradesmen more, meaning its incredibly important to collect as many good reviews to show off as you possibly can.
What challenges do you face in gaining the trust of your customers and avoiding a reputation as a dodgy cowboy? Share your experiences with us in the comments below, or get involved in the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.