Last summer I wrote a blog called "Would your clients have you in their house?", prompted by the wonderful Robert who gave us the five-star bathroom of our dreams.
Last month I had cause to think about that blog again, because we had what I can only describe as rogue traders in ours and - tied to my last blog about assertiveness - we had to sort them out pretty smartish.
No Robert this time - we have relocated Denegri Towers and are slightly too far from his area of work, more's the pity - so had to start from the ground up and look for some reliable people in our new area.
Despite extensive research, we just didn't get lucky first time around.
Within 90 minutes of arriving, the painter/decorators had created havoc. Perfectly good lining paper had been ripped from several walls, in different rooms, on the pretext that the (almost invisible) joins were a problem. Which was impressive given the amount of time they spent outside smoking, chatting, drinking tea, making/receiving phone calls and generally creating a poor impression. How did they fit it in?
We were told entire rooms would need re plastered (they wouldn't). Projected costs were rising by the minute (“Oooh, we’ll need a plasterer for that”).
Despite explicit instructions not to, more perfectly good paper was pulled from the walls. It was, quite frankly, carnage.
Thankfully Mr D and I were both working at home for part of that day. After an initial discussion with the boss man (brought over from a different job) to voice our concerns, we repaired to Cabinet HQ (aka the study) to plan our next move.
We were agreed on the following:
- We're no experts, but neither of us had ever seen anything like it when it came to professional painting and decorating
- The word that kept peppering our discussion in terms of their approach to the job was "cavalier"
- We wanted to quit while we were ahead and to get these people out of our house before a) they caused any more damage and b) they were left alone for any length of time-any initial good impression had disappeared and we were frankly very worried about what would happen if they were left with the free run of the house (I am sure that's very unfair but that was the feeling)
We needed to keep the message calm and straightforward which was essentially...
"Thank you for your time this morning, but this simply isn't going to work for us. We'd like you to pack up your things and go. Your approach feels very cavalier and we're not willing to take the risk about what else could happen."
This was the only outcome we'd accept and no money was going to change hands.
This was not an easy conversation to have. We are two professional people. We're reasonably articulate, assertive and confident but the challenge was that they were on our turf, there were three of them and it could have been very difficult and different.
They were sensible enough to realise quickly how much damage had been done – from our perspective both practically and to their reputation - and that they needed to move on. The discussion was concluded with a "thank you and goodbye" from us but it was challenging.
I kept thinking, "What if I'd been 80, on my own and not very confident?". How much more difficult (impossible?) might it have been then to challenge what I was being told? It was a nightmare!
Second time around we struck gold and got a brilliant, efficient and hard-working crew who sorted the damage, confirmed that the first lot had been "at it" and who we'll definitely be getting back for phase two of the painting schedule.
A lucky escape, undoubtedly. An opportunity to practise a key skill, definitely. A reminder - sadly - that all too often the claim "We're the best. Trust us." is an empty promise. It's critical to show AND tell how good we are, and remember that when the stakes are that high, you'll have only one opportunity to get it right.
I've told lots of people about our brilliant rescue team and will recommend them time and again I'm sure. But of course I've told the "rogue trader" story even more and that's what will stick in people's minds.
Don’t be a rogue. Be a rescuer!
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about the author
Nicky Denegri is our Senior Consultant. If you would like to know more about this subject, drop her an email and we will be in touch.