The conversation on Twitter, in the comments section on here and indeed the focus of my last few posts has been on rogue home owners and their general attitude and abuse towards window and door installers.
I want to state right now that in my experience most home owners continue to be decent, reasonable people that you can do good, profitable business with. However, there appears to be a very clear trend, certainly this year, of certain types of home owners who deliberately seek to cause pain and stress for installers, with the end result to try and obtain compensation for something spurious or to even get out of paying the final balance altogether.
For me, this is becoming a far bigger problem than is being talked about in public. With installers bearing the brunt of the abuse, I want to lift the lid on this growing problem, and at the very least try and restore some balance to the argument that “the customer is always right”.
Being completely unreasonable
I like to think we’re a pretty good company at our place. Our contracts are very thorough, certainly more detailed than many of our competitors. We keep home owners fully informed about anything and everything. Communication is clear and regular. And yet, not matter what we do, there are just some customers we cannot keep happy. This year seems to have been the worst.
I’ll give you a couple of examples. Early in the year I sold a door to the front of a house. I won’t go into too much detail just incase this gets found. But, the door needed a lintel, and the solider course had to be taken out so our builder could put a lintel in before the door was installed. This was all organised just days after the final survey. After turning up on time and getting right on with the job, we got an incredibly angry phone call from the home owner to complain that our builder just got on with the job, not leaving enough time for a cup of tea to be made. Dust was on the plants that were left in the way of the job, although we hadn’t even finished the lintel yet and were yet to clean up. Our builder had parked on the wrong part of the drive, although there were no signs saying not to park in certain places. We were accused of being shoddy and unorganised, despite our builder getting on site 72 hours after they had been signed up and final survey carried out. The attitude and temper down the other end of the phone was utterly over the top, and we decided pretty quickly that we were to cancel the order as no matter what we were going to do we would not be able to please this person.
A few months ago we had another call, this time from a customer where we installed new roofline products to a home around five years ago. We were told over the phone that small plants were starting to grow out from her gutters, there were leaves and other bits of dirt and muck in there too. We were asked “what are you going to do about it”? I said nothing, and that they had to get their gutters cleaned. Just because we installed them doesn’t mean we’re also responsible for getting them cleaned! I couldn’t quite believe that we actually had that phone call. Have we really all become that idle?
I could reel off at least a dozen more where home owners have been massively disproportionately aggressive or where we have just walked away from business because it’s not worth it. But I am sure you know where I am coming from.
As part of shining a light on rogue home owners, I encourage as many of you to describe similar situations with dodgy home owners via the comments section below. The more we talk about it, the more we can gauge how big a problem we are facing as an industry.
How to combat in advance
Many installers take deposits from home owners when they first sign up. Quite a lot of the time a small deposit is taken, with a big balance due at the end when the work is complete.
Unfortunately, that gives a potential dodgy client all the cards as they have most of the installer’s money, and the products installed. As we learned over Twitter over the weekend an installer cannot simply take the windows and doors back out if a home owner isn’t willing to pay. Unfair if you ask me, but that is just an indication of how skewed in the consumer’s favour regulation is now.
Other than a protracted legal process if an installer decides to go down that route against a dodgy client, there appears little other recourse. So what can an installer do before it get to that point?
One idea could be to increase deposit amounts. I am unaware of any specific laws against higher deposits, so it could be feasible for installers to ask for deposits of perhaps 40-75%. Yes this is a lot compared to the usual deposit amounts taken, but if an installer has been burned badly in the past, or they think they could be dealing with someone who could pull a fast one at the end of the contract, that higher deposit amount protects them and their cash flow. If it all does go south and there’s a chance they won’t get paid the final balance, at the very least they have had most of the contract value already.
Alternatively, installers can put a Bible’s-worth of T’s and C’s into their contracts to make them more bullet-proof than the President’s car. Yet, I still don’t think that would work. We have some pretty solid contracts at our place, yet most of the time our customer’s haven’t even read it all through properly. I cannot tell you the number of times where disputes have come up and when we refer them back to the contract the detail is actually there. So even giving home owners quotes and contracts, it doesn’t appear that they’re even read properly.
This is going to become a bigger and bigger issue each year as consumers know how to work the ever changing laws in their favour. Please share your experiences via the comments section below.
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