Top five things tradesmen do that ring alarm bells with customers

Customer matters

6 January 2016

The festive period might be over, but there are still some glad tidings for tradesmen as we enter 2016: in our recent survey of 2000 UK consumers*, over half agreed that tradespeople are both trustworthy (53%) and reliable (54%).

The figures go some way towards challenging the idea that people instinctively mistrust tradesmen – but our research also found that the stereotypical 'cowboy' image is still very much alive and kicking, with 61% of consumers agreeing that there's some truth behind the label.

So, how can hard-working, reliable tradesmen avoid being tarred with the 'rogue trader' brush? Here are some common pitfalls that are likely to raise a red flag (or two) with customers.

1. Asking for payment up-front

This was the number one alarm bell trigger for three quarters of consumers, and could be partly due to the 'horror stories' shown on TV shows such as Channel 5’s Cowboy Builders, which highlight cases where tradesmen have taken money up-front and then failed to complete the job. To reassure customers, it's best to invoice after the work is complete. If you do need money up front, be clear about what it will be used for and always give a receipt.

2. Requesting cash in hand

This was classed as a red flag by 61% of those surveyed – as it could suggest that tradesmen are attempting to avoid paying VAT. Steer clear of this pitfall by accepting a variety of trackable payment methods (for example debit card or bank transfer) and always provide receipts.

3. Not having insurance

Even the most experienced tradesmen can make mistakes, and customers are especially cautious when it comes to their biggest asset: their homes. Not having insurance was another key concern for 55% of consumers – and with the average settlement for accidental injury or property damage claims costing businesses £13,500**, public liability insurance is an essential investment.

4. Being a ‘Jack of all trades’

Consumers want experts, not a ‘Jack of all trades’. Half of those surveyed felt that a tradesman willing to take on jobs outside their core skillset – for example, a plasterer taking on a plumbing job – isn't one they would necessarily trust.

5. Not being available

Cancelling or rescheduling appointments without good reason, as well as failing to answer the phone, rang alarm bells for 43% and 52% of consumers respectively. Aim to give at least 24 hours' notice for cancellations (and respond to missed calls promptly!) to stay in your customers' good books.

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.

**Based on public liability settlements made by AXA in 2013.