The mass majority of us in this industry do our very best to earn a good honest living out of what we do. We bend over backwards and more to make sure that every single thing on our jobs is correct and to make sure the customer is left happy.

However. Despite our best efforts to be kind, courteous, well mannered, professional, on time and as perfect as Jesus, we get very little thanks. In fact, over the last few years, the consumer has gradually got worse and worse to deal with. The long lists of snags that appear when the job is ready to be paid in full. The nasty phone calls. The arguments. The petty little things which are exaggerated beyond what they need to be. The changes to orders that they demand to be made even though the product has already been manufactured. The worst thing? A lot of this is our fault!

Who thought it was a good idea to take such small deposits or no deposits at all?! When was that ever going to be good for cash flow? If you don’t take a deposit, you leave the customer will all the advantage when it comes to final balance. They know that if they present you with a long list of things that they are suddenly not happy with, you’re going to bend over and do what ever they ask because they know you need their cash. So, simply take a deposit. But don’t take a small one. Take a big chunk out of it! The customer doesn’t give a shit about you, so why should you as a business be put on the back foot with a measly sum of a deposit. Get a good sized chunk of the contract and go back to the office happy.

What I’m fed up with is contracts not seeming to mean anything to anyone any more. If you sign something, that is a legally binding contract to have that work done to the spec that has been agreed and signed for. I don’t know about you, but I spend hour after hour making sure that the customer knows exactly what they’re getting, what product they are buying and in what spec. If they still don’t know after all that time I have spent with them, then they are clearly not listening to what I am saying. Out of my hands. They sign the contract, that is that.

Weak selling. One of the other reasons why our industry is being crippled under the obesity of ‘consumer rights’. There are too many ‘Yes’ men in our industry. For fear of losing an order, the sales person will say yes to any request the customer puts forward, even if that request is something that cannot be done by the company. That then put unnecessary pressure on the rest of the staff at the business as they are the ones that will have to put the problems right. So, if you’re on of those types that just says yes to everything the customer asks for, DON’T! It creates problems for you and for the rest of your team. Grow some balls and learn to tell the customer what they can and cannot have!

Discounts. More weak selling. The minute you tell the customer you can give them something off the price, your credibility has gone and they think they will be able ply you for more discounts or freebies. Problem is then is you can’t really say no once you have already given in. Don’t give your product away for nothing. Earn the company a good margin. It’s what keeps you and the rest of your colleagues in a job in the first place! You have to give a good strong account of yourself, that way the company doesn’t look weak and the customer doesn’t think they can push you around.

Enforce the 95% clause. Hopefully, most good businesses will have a clause in their contract which says that if there is an issue that needs resolving, the customer MUST pay 95% of their remaining balance, and keep the last 5% back until that problem is resolved. It is a reasonable clause as because most of the work has been done, most of the balance should therefore be paid. Again, this is where you have to assert the contract that they sign. If you don’t, they’ll have you!

Guarantees. Since when did the industry think it was a good idea to start offering 15-20 year guarantees?! Cars have 3-7 year warranties depending on who you buy from, white good have 1-3 years, electronics have 12 months and so on. So when you compare our standard 10 year guarantee with all the other housing products, don’t you think 10 years is more than enough? Giving a 20 year guarantee nails your company to something totally unnecessary. Customers don’t expect anything more than ten years, so why give more?

Of course, the whole ‘customer is always right’ thing isn’t just the fault of our industry. Over the last few years we have seen the sorts of programs like ‘Don’t Get Done Get Dom’. These programs actively encourage customers to hold businesses at ransom to help get the result that they want! I have seen clips where Dom actively encourages a woman to go into HMV, a struggling high street chain, and barter the living shit out of the poor store assistant to give her some money off two PlayStations. Come on, where is the taste and decency in that? It is these sorts of TV shows that really don’t help our cause. They portray businesses and companies that have a big fat profit margin that is there for customers to try and reduce as much as possible. These programs give no thought to the business itself.

I am going to address the television issue in another post in a few days time…