Despite a very positive start to business this year for most of the industry, one continuing complaint that does seem to be becoming more vociferous is the behaviour of customers towards business. The main complaint seems to be focused mainly on the fact that more and more clients are becoming far more unreasonable, especially when it comes to paying up.

Discussion flared up on Twitter the other night over a client that was withholding a fairly large amount of money over a problem as small as single mark on a sealed unit. What seems to have disappeared over the last few years is general respect for business and the people in it, and has been replaced with a false sense over over-entitlement. There are many reasons why I think this, but I believe that one of the main ones is that customers now seem to think very little of a signature on a legally binding contract.

I see it myself in the day job I do. Customers who might sometimes regret the earlier choices they signed for start to play hard ball. We explain to them that we systematically went through the product spec with them, and that they signed a legally binding contract. However we are starting to see more customers being bold enough to tell us that they don’t care what they signed. What remains of reason towards business with the general public is dripping away quickly.

It’s time we as a business community started to impress upon the general public the importance of what they are signing when they do purchase new windows and doors from us. We need to emphasise the importance of a signature on a legally binding contract at the start of the sales process. Customers now do not fear the paperwork they sign thanks to round after round of overly protective consumer protection laws and TV programmes conditioning people to think it is OK to extort businesses for all they can get away with.

What our industry also needs to do is to get it’s paperwork in order. Smart consumers who can spot an opportunity are finding gaps and loopholes on contracts to fight their cases and prolong paying balances. As an industry I think in general most paperwork is quite sloppy. I have seen competitors’ quotes and it is staggering to see sometimes how little detail there is on the quote. Poor contracts make it very easy for clients to find reasons to withhold payment. It’s time the industry and it’s sales force took a bit more time over it’s paperwork and make sure that their contracts don’t leave the company wide open to abuse.

We need to remember what is at stake here. The more problems clients cause us issues, the more money it takes to put right, which eats into the profit margin of the project. The less chance there is of nit picking, the better that margin can be preserved. We also need to be honest with ourselves. I am sure we all like to think that all our clients are perfect and reasonable. But we also need to accept that more and more are finding ways to prolong paying the final bill, which is hurting installations companies up and down the UK.