No contract no payment

Which? Trusted Traders update: Having a contract in place before starting work seems obvious. But complaints from customers and traders seem to indicate that the obvious doesn’t always happen.

Most of the time, you quote for a job, do it to the best of your ability, the customer is happy and they pay you. However, things can go wrong and we often hear complaints from customers and traders when there has been no quote or contract in writing. This leaves both traders and customers dangerously exposed, because it is one person’s word against another.

You wouldn’t take out a loan without a contract, why would you enter into a business relationship without one? We know you’re thinking, ‘I don’t do that.’ But what about when you’ve got a contract in place, start work but then another problem crops up which will require additional expense? In this situation, it is essential to re-quote and get the go-ahead in writing, even if that means a delay in getting the work done.

The importance of re-quoting

As Lynn Vallance, Company Director of JTM Plumbing and Heating Services Ltd. points out, problems requiring additional expenditure will only come to light once the job has started: ‘sometimes with bathrooms you get different levels of flooring, walls that aren’t square – it makes tiling difficult when things don’t line up’.

The danger of not re-quoting is that the customer often doesn’t realise the job is going to be more expensive. When the work is done, they may expect a bill that matches up to the original quote, having not taken into account any extra agreed work which may involve an additional cost. That can lead to a relationship breakdown, negative feedback and sometimes damage to your brand.

Lynn told us that customers are often hyper-vigilant when dealing with traders, because of the fear of being taken for a ride. This means misunderstandings can escalate when the written evidence is not there to back up the bill.

Protect yourself by following procedure

The best protection for you and your customers is to have all your processes clearly laid out in writing and to stick to them. In Lynn’s case, she found the Which? Trusted Traders assessment process helped her business ensure that all the right policies and paperwork were in place. The assessment process advises:

  • Do not start any work without a full and signed contract
  • Always take a deposit
  • Make sure you have all agreements in writing, including an agreement by the customer to abide by your terms and conditions
  • Keep records of all communications and amendments to any agreements
  • If anything changes as the job progresses, re-quote and reissue the paperwork and do not continue until it has been signed off by the customer
  • Think about the worst case scenario and have a procedure to deal with it.

 Customer reviews

At Which? Trusted Traders we moderate 100% of the reviews you receive on your profile. So if there is a negative review, we’ll make sure that it is fair by checking the details with both you and the customer.

A single complaint shouldn’t be the end of your business, particularly if you can show that you respond to it fairly and promptly. If the majority of customers are happy and you encourage them to leave positive reviews, new prospects will look beyond a single bad notice.

Fortunately, the vast majority of people have positive relationships with their traders. There are more rogue traders than rogue customers out there. The policies and procedures you have set up during your Which? Trusted Traders assessment will help protect you by making sure that you do everything right. Then, if the worst should happen and things go wrong, you should be able to demonstrate that you have behaved honestly and fairly, as anyone would expect from a Which? Trusted trader.

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