Tradesmen: raising your reputation

Marketing and brand

2 February 2016

Successful tradespeople know the value of a good reputation: it's often the difference between being hired for the job and being overlooked in favour of a competitor. And even in today's hi-tech world of search engines and social media, there can be no doubting the power of good old-fashioned word-of-mouth referrals.

This means it's important for all tradesmen to think about how their reputation 'measures up'.

Our findings indicate that knowing a reputable tradesperson can be a big factor in people deciding to hire a professional instead of attempting DIY. When asked about the circumstances in which they would use a tradesperson for a home improvement job, 30% of people answered 'when I have a suitable tradesman I can trust'.

This means there's a major opportunity here for plumbers, electricians, decorators and other tradespeople to win more business by improving their reputation. Our research found that just under half of consumers frequently hear positive stories about tradesmen, which means there are plenty of traders out there getting it right. So, how does your reputation measure up? And how can you improve it? Here are a few simple tips.

Go the extra mile

Our research found that tradesmen who go beyond their remit can count on a recommendation. One consumer told us: "My plasterer came to do my bathroom walls and noticed the ceiling could do with it too, so did it for me at no extra cost for labour."

Do the right work, for the right cost

A common worry for consumers is being overcharged for work they don't actually need. Traders can reassure customers by being transparent about scope and costs. One consumer highlighted a positive experience: "A tradesman once advised me to try a cheaper option to see if it worked, before thinking about a larger, more expensive piece of work."

Be flexible

Customers really appreciate flexibility and empathy, as we found in this anecdote about one trusted electrician: "I had electrics done and it was found that more work was needed. I couldn't pay immediately, so they reduced the price and I paid in instalments."

Be diligent

Tradespeople who take real pride in their work are likely to be rewarded with glowing recommendations. When asked for positive stories, one customer told us: "The plumber who installed my boiler and under-floor heating did a great job, was always on-hand to answer questions, and also came back at a later date to see if I had any questions. He is gold dust to me, and all of my neighbours use him as well."

Something that any tradesman can find challenging, whether they are self-employed or part of a larger organisation, is gaining the trust of new customers. Due to negative stereotypes perpetuated by a select few, the public can have a certain wariness towards plumbers, joiners and other tradesmen.

Many unfairly assume that they are going to be given inflated quotes and work will be done to a poor standard. So what can the upstanding men and women of the trades industry do to ensure that they are not being judged before a job even begins? Here are a selection of trade associations and credentials that tradesmen can apply for and join to help boost their reputability:

Construction Industry Council

One of the UK’s leading construction trade associations is the Construction Industry Council (CIC). Boasting a collective membership of half a million trade professionals, the CIC acts as a single body to speak on behalf of its members about issues relating to the construction industry.

National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting

Those who work as electricians can register themselves with the National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting (NICEIC). Founded in 1956, the NICEIC holds a database of over 27,000 UK contractors, not only within the electrical field, but also plumbing and gas. Various Government schemes support this body including the UKAS and Part P.

Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors

For over 90 years, the Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors (APHC) has given professional support to businesses within the plumbing and heating sectors. Members of APHC are entitled to professional training courses to ensure that their work is to the highest possible standard.

Construction Skills Certification Scheme

The Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) is designed as a proof of skill level that can be carried by individuals working within the construction industry. This not-for-profit company is run by industry experts and union representatives. Today, most of the country’s principal contractors require that on-site workers hold a valid CSCS card.

Council for Registered Gas Installers

Originally started as a body to certify professional gas engineers, the Council for Registered Gas Installers (CORGI) now acts as a register for approved tradesmen. A customer charter ensures all members adhere to a high standard of business practice and this wheedles out the so called ‘cowboys’ that tarnish the reputation of their more honest colleagues.

British Woodworking Federation

The British Woodworking Federation (BWF) currently represents 700 manufacturers, distributors and installers of a variety of timber products such as doors, windows, staircases, and furniture as well as architectural joinery. The Foundation specialises in creating a pool of expertise from its members and distributing information and advice not only to tradesmen, but clients looking for work to be done.

British Association of Landscape Industries

For people working within the landscaping industry, the British Association of Landscape Industries (BALI) is the UK’s main source of promotion and support. According to their website, BALI aims to be the trade association of choice for the UK’s landscape professionals.

These associations and credentials have a wide ranging scope to be presented to both large companies that employ numerous people to carry out work on their behalf, and individual tradesmen who are self-employed. They also have equal value and individual benefits that apply for both large trade companies and sole traders.

There are some other more basic considerations that tradesmen can make to help augment their reputation in a positive way. Having public liability insurance in place is a strong indicator of someone who takes their work and any potential problems or accidents seriously. External factors have the potential to derail projects and tradesmen need to have the appropriate cover in place – to protect their pocket, and the future of their business.

But being a member of a recognised industry body isn’t the only way to create that professional look for your business. Other, smaller steps towards boosting your reputation could be as simple as ensuring that work vehicles such as vans are kept clean and tidy, or making sure your employees are presentable and polite.

But what have we missed? Which industry bodies are you a member of? Or what steps do you take to boost the reputation of your trades business?

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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