Contractors Viewed as Untrustworthy
A recent Gallup Poll on trust in America did not reflect favorably on contractors. The survey asked a cross-section of Americans which occupations were the most honest. Construction contractors ranked 19th out of 32 occupations, with only 23 percent of people saying that the industry was trustworthy. Professions that rank more honest include: U.S. senators, governors, politicians and funeral directors. Ouch.
Couple this finding with the National Association of Consumer Agency Administrators' (NACAA) annual survey. In 2000, 82 percent of consumer agencies around the country cited home improvement as a major source of complaints. The most common complaints about contractors were failure to finish the job and poor quality of work. For the first time, home improvement has surpassed auto sales as the biggest source of consumer complaints.
What does this mean?
A trustworthy contractor can win very strong customer loyalty. Use this opportunity to separate yourself as a PROFESSIONAL with high quality standards and integrity.
Following are a few methods you can use to set yourself apart from the crowd:
Be sure to be licensed or registered!
Most states and many localties require businesses to be licensed and/or registered. Contracting businesses are more often registered than licensed. Licensed businesses are usually trades, which have specific educational requirements. Registered businesses, on the other hand, usually have no specific competency or education test. The registration is mostly a declaration that you are a "real business"with a "real address" and "real ownership". Registration may also require you to have liability insurance... leading us to the next topic!
Be sure to be insured!!
One way to raise the levels of trust is maintaining business insurance and letting your customers know about it. There is always a level of doubt in hiring any new contractor. Declaring that you have insurance assures the customer that, should something go terribly wrong they and their home will be secure.
Educate Your Customers:
Encourage your customers to ask the right questions. What types of materials will be used? What kinds of guarantees are behind the materials? Tell them about shortcuts that other contractors might take and explain why you do things the way you do. Taking the time to educate your customer will allow them to see what distinguishes you from other contractors.
By keeping all licenses and references together, you can quickly show you're certified to do the job. Some state licensing boards advise homeowners to check out contractors with the local building departments, trade associations or unions, and the Better Business Bureau. Make sure your records are up-to-date with these organizations and keep recommendations from these establishments on file.
Have A Concrete Contract
Think of the contract as an outline for the homeowner as well as the contractor. When laying it out, include the approximate dates when work will begin and be substantially completed as well as a description of the work to be done, materials and equipment to be used. Most importantly, don't forget the price and a schedule of payments showing the exact amount of each one.
By far, the most important tip is to be honest with your customer. It is the easiest way to avoid problems and add credibility.
Setting yourself apart as a professional in your line of business will bring the trust back into the customer-contractor relationship, making your job and their experience much more enjoyable.