Mind the age gap: why are younger customers less trusting of tradesmen?

Customer matters

2 February 2016

Without trust, you can’t trade. When a customer hires you, they’re not only trusting in your integrity but also your ability to get the job done. But trust is a doubled-edged sword – it can help you and it can hurt you.

We recently conducted a survey of 2000 consumers* and found that younger customers are typically less trusting of tradesmen than their older counterparts. But why?

The psychology of youth

According to a recent government study of social attitudes, it's not personal: younger people are just much less trusting of people generally. The study found that only a third of those born after 1990 believe that "many people in their neighbourhood can be trusted", compared to two thirds of those born before 1945. Interestingly, young people in the UK also have the lowest levels of ‘trust and belonging’ in the whole of Europe.

In terms of how this age gap impacts on trust in tradesmen, our survey found that:

  • More than half (54%) of all consumers think that tradesmen are trustworthy – this drops to 52% of 18-24 year-olds but rises to 59% of people aged 65 and over.
  • Younger people tend to perceive tradesmen as ‘cowboys’ and ‘rogue traders', citing negative word-of-mouth and personal experience – this perception applies to 64% of 18-24 year-olds compared to 60% of people aged 65 and over.
  • Younger people worry about leaving tradesmen alone in their home – 53% of 18-24 year-olds voiced this concern, compared to just 30% of people aged 65 and over.

From our research, it's clear that tradesmen could be missing out on the opportunity to build valuable long-term business relationships with customers in ‘Generations Z and Y’ – or, as they might also reasonably be named, ‘Generation Cautious’. Here’s our top tips to earn favour with this tricky demographic:

Show your qualifications. It could be a professional certificate, membership of an industry-recognised body or other form of guarantee to give your customers peace of mind. Credentials create comfort, which is the order of the day.

Refer to references. Remember that in the mind of your next potential customer, you’re a total stranger. To get your foot in the door, highlight some of your super-satisfied customers. You don’t need a physical portfolio to do it – Generations Z and Y are hugely web-driven, so all eyes are on:

  • Your website: 43% of 18-24 year-olds check up on tradesmen via their website, versus 28% of people aged 65 and over.
  • Your online reviews: 54% of 18-24 year-olds check these, versus 25% of those over 65.
  • Your social media presence: 36% of 18-24 year-olds check this, versus just 5% of those over 65.

Introduce insurance. Public liability insurance is as indispensable to a tradesman as a toolbox, covering you in the case of accidental property damage or injury while on the job. Having insurance is a key trust-winner across all age groups, with 58% of consumers agreeing this is something they look for in a reliable tradesman.

Business insurance that measures up

Over half of customers are suspicious of tradespeople who don’t have public liability insurance – so having the right protection in place could really help your reputation.

*Based on an AXA Business Insurance survey of 2000 consumers and 320 tradesmen in the UK conducted in November 2015.