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Customer Service And 'Tradies' - You’re Kidding, Right!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010   By Mike Reddy


Problems with using 'tradies' have been a constant source of complaints to consumer rights organisations. Whether the tradesperson in question is a plumber, a builder, an electrician or one of the dozens of other common trades, it seems that people regularly have an issue with dealing with them.

What is it about tradespeople that results in them being singled as a group generally lacking in the most basic customer service skills? What can they do about it?

Arranging the job

It’s a ‘known fact’ - 'tradies' don’t return calls. If you’re a tradesperson you can probably point to good reasons – possibly you already have enough work. Even so, just return the call and tell the customer that. Returning a person’s call is ordinary politeness, and it lets them know they need to look elsewhere for someone to fix their problem; it might mean they try again in the future – when you could use that extra work.

Arranging the time

Most customers consider a tradesperson’s agreement to turn up at a certain time on a certain day as little more than wishful thinking. If you are not sure you’ll be able to do the job on the time and day agreed then give the customer a courtesy call and tell them when they can expect you. Similarly, because the customer has things to be getting on with as well, if you do finish the previous job early, give the customer a ring and ask if it’s convenient for you to arrive sooner. Mobile phones make this basic act of customer service easy and practicable.

If there’s some uncertainty in your schedule give a short range of time - around an hour will be manageable for most customers, but any longer is pushing it. A customer doesn’t want to be hanging around all day waiting for a tradesperson, so saying you will be there between 1.00 and 2:00 p.m.  is fine but ‘in the afternoon’ isn’t.

Not showing up – it shouldn’t even be a consideration.

On the job

It’s basic good manners to introduce yourself correctly and professionally when you arrive at the customer’s premises. Just mentioning your name, your company and what job you are there to do will go a long way towards getting the relationship off to a good start.

Don’t treat the customer in a slighting fashion. Listen carefully to what they say and use plain language yourself when explaining technicalities to them. Give them time to think things through and understand why you are suggesting doing things the way you are.

Treat the customer’s home and property as you would your own. Walking through the house with mud caked boots, sitting on chairs in greasy overalls or leaving hand marks on the walls only gets the customer incensed at your lack of consideration.

After the job - clean up

Leaving behind a mess is another concern of customers. The job may look great but what will attract the eye of the customer are the off cuts of wire, carpet or other waste strewn around the floor. If there is an issue in removing the mess, for example because there would be a cost attached to it, then include it in the quote beforehand or, failing that, explain to the customer that you can do it for a cost, or they can arrange it themselves. At the least, tidy up before leaving.

Good service pays big dividends

Do these basics well and you will be above the eighty percent of tradespeople who think customer service is only about doing the technical work. It’s really about pleasing the person who will pay you and maybe recommend you to others. With word of mouth being the most popular method people use to locate a tradesperson, that’s important.

A little thought and commitment to customer service can pay handsome dividends for your business. Put yourself in the place of the customer and think about how you’d like to be treated by someone you had hired to do a job for you.

Mike Reddy is a Chartered Accountant, business coach and advisor helping businesses in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Gold Coast to easily increase their profits and cash flow. He is currently President of the North Sydney Chamber of Commerce, a Regional Councillor for Sydney North East and a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants Sydney leadership team. As well as advising businesses, Mike presents business development seminars and webinars and is regularly contacted by the media to comment on small business matters. You can connect with him on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.