Family & Lifestyle

How to be a customer your tradie will love

Tradies deal with different types of customers every day, here are a few tips on being a good customer.

Good customers get the right approvals

A good customer will get any necessary approvals from Council and engineers, before asking a tradie to start a job. Without the right certification, works could be stopped or need to be removed after installation.

Good customers are open to change

Helen Paddon is the CEO of female-lead Tradettes Plumbing, and Queensland's first female Development Tribunal Referee for the Department of Housing and Public Works. In this role, Paddon acts as an impartial referee between Council and clients who have had works done to their property without getting the right Council approvals to do so.

It takes more than the right approvals to be a good customer, and an open mind is a great place to start. Paddon says “Someone who knows what they want, or is open to suggestions and is willing to understand what’s realistic, makes a really positive client.”

Alan Taylor, an electrical contractor with Perth-based West Coast Construction and Demolition, also says flexibility and openness are key characteristics of good customers. “The definition of a good customer is somebody who will work with you and take on board what you have to say. They don't try to work against you.”

Good customers communicate with the tradie and understand that it is a job

Deciding they don’t like a job after it’s been done doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing, as long as the customer communicates a plan with the tradie, as well as understanding that there are costs involved for any additional works. Communication is key as it keeps everyone on the same page and happy.

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“We had one customer who chose a toilet suite, had us install it, and then decided he didn’t like it,” says Paddon. “He asked us to remove it and install a suite we thought was more suitable. He was happy to pay, so it was fine by us.”

Good customers listen to and follow advice

Paddon had a customer ask that a newly installed seven-tonne spa bath be removed from the second floor of their property. “Even though we’d warned him to get an engineer to confirm the structure could hold the weight of the spa, he didn’t get the final report until after we had installed it. We had to remove it, and then he wouldn’t pay us for all the work because he said that it wasn’t going in.”

A good customer will make sure all the certifications are in and follow the right and relevant advice before signing off on any work.

Paddon takes the bigger picture view and tries to learn from every job. “It was unpleasant, but we don't have nightmare customers. We have customers that challenge our abilities and help us to grow.”

Good customers make it easy for tradies to do their jobs

Access is vital for all jobs, but especially so for the large-scale projects. Recently Taylor had a job made more difficult by an individual who was one of many stakeholders.

“The person who was running the job was just difficult from beginning to end. We had scaffolders on site and the customer denied them access into the building but wouldn’t explain why. They also complained that we hadn’t replaced artworks to the correct locations after the work was done. Luckily, we had taken photos before the artworks were moved and so we knew exactly where to return them.”

Top 3 things good customers do

Paddon and Taylor both agree about the top three things that a good customer will do:

  1. Open communication about access and availability. “Being available when you say you will be is really important,” says Paddon. “The top thing is getting access into the property and making sure the relevant people on site know that you’re there to do the work,” adds Taylor.
  2. Pay the bill on time. Taylor points out that late payment for jobs put a lot of pressure on a business overdraft. “Some customers pay on 90-day terms, and a delayed payment can make it really, difficult to operate a business and meet subcontractor’s 30-day terms.” Paddon says it’s really important that customers communicate about their ability to pay. “If you agree to a price, then be prepared to pay it. If you don't have the money, have that conversation. It's amazing what communication can do.”
  3. Be personable and friendly. Paddon says, “there are times when a tradie may be coming from a difficult client’s house, and they may be short and abrupt. They’re still humans trying to process challenges. The nicest thing you can do for them is smile and remember all they really want is to do a good job and help fix any problems.” The thing is to be mindful that everyone working on a project/site can have their ups and downs. Being a good customer means being polite, respectful and professional when dealing with trade professionals.

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