Which? are the well known consumer magazine people and every year thousands, if not millions, choose products on the basis of them standing up well in trails by Which staff or readers.
No longer is it just products that they are scrutinising – businesses offering services can volunteer to put themselves under the microscope of a Which investigator. So Tara Maintenance Ltd took the plunge.
The examiner investigated a range of paperwork including invoices, receipts, Terms & Conditions, insurance and the workers qualifications. She spoke to me at great length to understand how the business operates, how a job is priced, what happens if there are changes or unexpected events when the job is under-way, what happens if there are problems, even after the job is finished. Obviously she wanted to make sure the customers’ statutory rights were being respected and the public are being treated fairly. Finally she also looked through invoices to ALL the customers over the past 12 months and took a random sample to contact for references.
I was quite confident that we were doing everything correct and offering a really good service to customers. Which? really have done a thorough investigation of businesses on their Trusted Trader website so customers can be confident they are employing traders who will treat them fairly and with respect.
I was keen to take part in the process for a number of reasons:
- an independent examination of the business could reassure or point out problems and sure enough I did get some great advice for improvements,
- passing the independent assessment by Which? will mean more to the public than simply our word that we are running a good business,
- the Which? assessment is not just an exercise in submitting all the right paperwork – unlike many of the other schemes that you will have heard of.
I spent some time telling the assessor about the difficulties faced by small businesses doing construction work for the public. I find it fascinating reading about Michael’s real experiences in the book trade so you readers may be interested to know about challenges Tara Plumbing face.
The public want a business that meets all the criteria of a Which? trusted trader when they employ people to work in their homes, whether it be a new bathroom or kitchen or central heating fitted or something more major or minor.
However, many are also looking for the cheapest possible price.
It is possible to shop around for materials and save a little, bigger savings are to be made by changing brands and compromising on levels of quality. e.g. We recently quoted to replace a toilet, for this particular job we recommended a £200 toilet but the customer wanted one that was only £50 – Mr TP did not think it was a good idea for that particular home. Whoever supplies an item is responsible for it, so he told the potential customer what he thought of the £50 toilet. Yes he could fit it but he would not be willing to supply it, they would have to go get it themselves.
OK. People choosing budget items is one problem: often a false economy because the things do not last half as long as an item that was only slightly more expensive (not that toilet example, obviously – I wouldn’t like to tell you Mr TP’s estimation of the life span of the £50 toilet). Several quotes to SUPPLY and fit XXX might not be providing the same quality of item so one company may appear much cheaper than another by installing a budget range.
A greater difficulty is cheaper labour.
Time and time and time again I hear of construction work in private homes at ridiculously low prices – how did the worker make a living? It is not that they employ cheap “foreign” labour, in my opinion, it is that they have not worked to any of the rules of our land. They are not registered for VAT despite trading above the threshold, they avoid being VAT registered by receiving all payments in cash and similarly do not declare all their income for income tax. This would be the only way that some can work for the very low rates and charges that I sometimes hear about.
And those same “builders” do not work to Building Regulations and do not declare their work to the Local Authority. The result is a new bathroom, extension, ensuite etc. that may serve its purpose but is not up to current standards and can hold a load of problems, some of which might not be obvious at first.
I doubt if those traders are insured or if they will come back to attend to problems in the future.
The problem for us then is that no matter how reasonable we are with our prices we will seem expensive, we can’t compete with those people and pay our TAXes.
I can identify with those people who employ the very cheapest “builders” because I am also a working mum with too many young children – however, those cheap builders are often cutting corners and leaving many problems behind. The expense of getting it put right can often be greater than simply having it done correctly in the first place.
Tara at the which? Trusted Trader site is here:
will take you to the Trusted Trader site if you want to search for business.