A few construction professionals were sharing a few adult beverages when the topic of customers came up. These professionals all had a few stories about their favorite customers. Everything from them bringing coffee and breakfast sandwiches to the job site, having payments ready every Friday without prompting, being free with the compliments and immediate payment for changes.
Then the real stories started.
Non-payment was the number one complaint. Everything from imagined “mistakes” to not liking a worker’s attitude. Sometimes there was nothing wrong with the work the owner just ran out of money but didn’t tell the contractor because they wanted the job complete. Legally I believe that is called fraud. “wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial or personal gain.” Unfortunately, it’s expensive to sue for payment so you have to decide about throwing more money to collect money. It’s amazing how many customers can lie to your face about sending a check. It’s hurtful that you have been in their home for, sometimes months when they just turn on you.
Changes to the original quoted scope of work. When the job is priced out there are specific items and labor priced out. So, when a customer wants to change it’s almost never a cheaper option. Homeowners tend to think since it’s already open how hard can it be to …. The contractors are generally nice folks who want to make the homeowners happy. And sometimes it can be in the budget to make the changes but sometimes the additions are too costly to just be absorbed and a change order must be created. More importantly since this is not part of the original order it’s not part of the original payment schedule and need to be paid immediately not waiting until the end. This is to avoid the customer being mad at the end of the job for “unexpected extras” when they are the ones who changed the job.
These professionals have worked hard to get positive reviews for a high Angie’s List and Google ratings. They understand that most customer’s use the internet to look up service contractors. They understand that having a good Facebook profile helps get referrals. That a strong online presence is important. Many have websites and blogs, like this one you are reading, to stay higher in the Google searches. It’s a different world than when most of these professionals started. Back then it was word of mouth and personal recommendations. Now they have to stay on top of all the trends and keep themselves online in multiple places.
After a few more of the adult beverages the collective group wanted to start a customer review site. Somewhere the wronged contractors could post warnings about bad customers. They could write the reviews of their dealings with unreasonable expectations and poor payers. It was a cathartic conversation but unfortunately the libel and defamation possibilities and additions to their liability insurance policies make it cost prohibitive. It’s not fair. They understood that some customers need protection from unscrupulous contractors but there are just as many unscrupulous homeowners. Especially ones that understand how a bad review can hurt a company. People can post reviews even if there was no work done. Libel and slander work both ways. And can be just as hard to disprove as prove. There are steps to fight bad reviews but sometimes the damage is already done once posted. Most service contractors don’t have the time or resources to monitor all online platforms to stay on top of all reviews and ratings. And continue to work on current jobsites and work on securing future jobs.
The internet is both a blessing and a curse for the modern contracting business.