Evaluate your role as a conscientious consumer

  • By Angie Hicks Living Smart
  • Monday, December 30, 2013 5:03pm
  • Life

The home, landscaping and other pros who earn your repeat business are the ones who get the basics right. They return calls and emails promptly, show up on time and do what they promise.

But this street should run two ways. Consider this season of resolution-making an appropriate time to consider whether you, the consumer, are holding up your end of the contractor-customer relationship.

To find out if you’re a conscientious consumer, ask yourself these five questions:

1. Are you as responsive as you expect others to be?

I always recommend getting multiple bids. So, as you work through your contractor selection process, be sure to inform everyone about where you are in the hiring process. At the very least, let unsuccessful bidders know when you’ve made your choice.

You won’t be offending them. Service providers tell me they’d much rather be informed so they can move on. They don’t want to waste time thinking they’re still in the running for a job.

It’s totally up to you, but if you have the time and inclination, consider sharing any details that losing bidders might be able to use to improve their chances of landing the next job.

2. Do you clearly state your expectations?

Service providers aren’t mind readers. If there are things you want, or rules you want followed, say so. Do you want workers to use a particular bathroom and not another? Do you want your driveway left clear?

Being specific at the start of a project reduces the odds that you’ll have to have an awkward conversation later.

3. Are you aware that change orders have consequences?

I always recommend that consumers get all relevant details in writing. Your contract is your best friend in making sure you’re happy with a project.

But change is a constant, and it’s likely you will want to alter your original plans. Just make sure you talk to your contractor and get all changes in writing.

In addition, make sure you have a clear understanding of how any agreed-upon changes will affect the final price and timeline.

4. Do you treat contractors with the same courtesy you expect?

The interaction between contractors and consumers is, in many ways, a negotiation. There’s often a lot at stake, but there’s always time and space for courtesy and respect.

If you find that you repeatedly experience conflict with people you hire, consider that the problem may be mostly on your end. If you haven’t always practiced the Golden Rule, this is your golden opportunity to resolve to start practicing it.

5. Did you say thank you?

This time of year, many consumers offer tips or gifts to service providers they regularly use, such as housecleaners, handymen and landscapers.

These treats have their place, but if you really want to give a business owner or employee a boost, write an email or send a letter saying why you appreciated their work. Even better, write an online review that delivers the power to help them attract new business.

Angie Hicks is the founder of Angie’s List, a resource for local consumer reviews on everything from home repair to health care; www.angieslist.com.

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