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Home Improvements Ratings

Home Improvements Standards

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Other Standards

They say you're as good as your most recent work. Use the filter to see if the number of reviews this year, last year, this month, etc gives you confidence that this is likely to be representative. See if the average ratings appear consistent, or changeable, or whether there are emerging trends that may continue.

It takes years to establish a reputation and this chart shows you the number of reviews received by Referenceline for the businesses that belong to this organisation. This may include reviews for those businesses before they joined this organisation.

Referenceline has been helping businesses to collect reviews from their customers since 1998, starting with Freepost forms when the internet was slow and unreliable. We now offer online reviews as well, but many businesses still appreciate the simplicity of handing a form to a customer on the spot.

Referenceline's freepost forms provide plenty of space for a comment. We publish the handwritten version as well as the text, so you can see that we don't edit the review ... and the personality of the customer often comes across in the handwriting! Customers with lower ratings may write longer reviews to "let off steam".

There's no doubt that online reviews provide more space for customers to have their say and, as with freepost forms, the unhappiest customers may write the longest reviews.

Customers come with different ages, different levels of experience and with different budgets. Some are new and others have known the business for 10 or more years. The chart above shows the averages and the following charts show the wide variety in each case.

Even the smallest budgets - for "quick fixes" to replace a worn part or repair a leak - can be important to prevent severe problems and bigger bills in future. At the other end of the scale, larger budgets are likely to be "improvements" and may require a very different skillset including project planning and the management of a team of different trades.

The largest number of reviews come from older customers. This is partly driven by home ownership, but also includes the elderly and potentially vulnerable.

Younger customers tend to have bigger budgets (for home improvements). The average budget tends to decrease with age, where the demand is more likely to be for repairs and maintenance

The number of reviews from men and women is fairly evenly balanced. The average rating given by women is often very slightly higher than by men.

Attracting new customers is important for any business, and it is these customers who most need reassurance about the competence and ethics of the business that comes from vetting and monitoring, including customer reviews. But equally the proportion of customers who stay or return after a number of years is a good indicator of the trust and loyalty earned by that business

Consumers are often dependent on the business for advice about the type and cost of work that wll be needed and then for assurance that it has been carried out correctly. Consumers with above average experience may be better able to assess or challenge the business, but many see themselves as relatively inexperienced and must therefore rely on the business to act professionally despite this conflict of interest.

It is often the case with home improvements that customers may first use a business for a relatively small job and then, based on the confidence they have established, return to that business when a larger budget is at stake.

Consumers may be vulnerable for a variety of reasons. The very young may lack judgement. The elderly may lack confidence. Beginners may lack experience. New customers may be nervous. Life events (such as moving home, separation, poor health) may undermine our clear thinking. Faced with consumers in any of these situations, businesses have the opportunity to offer support as well as earn a living.

We can pay special attention to the ratings given by vulnerable consumers in these different categories to make sure that their needs are being met.

Smaller jobs might seem less attractive to a business, but we should welcome their social role when they are willing to carry out a proportion of smaller jobs a reasonable rates. Consumers benefit from small repairs which may save them much larger repair bills later and businesses benefit from the possibility of being called back in future when a larger job is needed.

Referenceline has worked with local Trading Standards and TrustMark to identify the main measures of customer satisfaction. The three areas of Quality, Service and Value apply in general terms to any industry but for work carried out in the home it is especially important that work should be Tidy. The following charts examine this in more detail.

Repairs are effective if the problem goes away. Improvements are clear if something modern and shiny replaces what was old fashioned and worn. Maintenance is harder to judge, because there may be little to see. Boilers may work for a while even if service intervals are not respected. Roof repairs may be out of sight. So Quality may sometimes be hard to judge.

We all appreciate good service and this typically gets the highest ratings. We need businesses to be friendly and helpful in their dealings with us - and often with our family- as well as professional in "getting the job done"

When we let someone into our home we are "letting down the drawbridge" and many types of work can create dust, possible damage to decorations, or simply disruption to the family while people go to and fro. So it is important for businesses to consider how they can keep disruption to a minimum and leave things clear and tidy on completion.

It can be very hard for consumers to judge value for money and this may explain why it is often the lowest-rated element. The traditional advice is to get 3 quotes and while this might be sensible for the more expensive or complicated jobs, it is usually not realistic or practical for everyday work. So consumers may have no means to compare the price with anything else and value is therefore very subjective.

Of all 4 ratings, Value is often rated slightly less than Quality, Service and Tidy. We are all cost-conscious and the following chart shows in particular how Value ratings vary with Budget.

We all want a good deal and it is easiest to appreciate the value of quick fixes at minimal cost. As budgets increase - especially for repairs and maintenance which may be unwelcome - it becomes harder to "feel" the value. When it comes to improvements, we can appreciate the benefit of a new kitchen or loft conversion, so there may be higher ratings for value in spite of bigger budgets.

Referenceline has worked with Trading Standards and TrustMark to compile this checklist of standards which should apply to any home improvement work ... Before starting work, during the work and on completion. The scores above show the percentage of reviews that confirm the business has met each standard. The full details are set out on the following pages.

Ordering a service is very different from buying a product. For example, when you ask a plumber to come to your home to fix the boiler, you don't know what has to be done, what parts are needed or how long it will take. Neither does the plumber! But you should check whether they expect you to pay for the visit (a callout fee) and then ask for an estimate (a best guess) or a quote (a promise) before they start work. They should confirm this in writing and VAT must be included.

You may have to arrange for time off work to be at home and it may be disruptive to you and your family to have work carried out in the house, so it's important to have a clear idea of when the work will start and a reasonable idea of when it will finish (this may often be only an estimate).

When they give you their quote or estimate, they should also explain whether they expect you to pay anything before the work is finished A deposit may be reasonable if they have to order parts which can't be used elsewhere but should not be more than the value of the parts involved. Payment should otherwise be due after you are satisfied that the work has been completed as promised.

It's frustrating when appointments are missed or the dates of starting and completion are delayed. Any changes to the planned work and cost should be agreed with you and confirmed in writing, so there are no misunderstandings. So reliability matters, but it's no-one's fault when rain stops work or parts can't be found, so it's important to recognise when things are outside anyone's control, as long as you are kept informed.

When the work is finished, you should be given a receipt or invoice including any VAT. This should show the work that has been done so if you ever need to contact them with any questions or concerns, you have a clear record of what you have paid for. This should include specific mention of any parts supplied that are covered by a manufacturers guarantee, so you can show the date they were installed.

If the work is covered by a guarantee, make sure you have this in writing and keep it safety so you can find it if you have any problems at a later date. Any parts supplied may be covered by a manufacturers guarantee, so you may need to register directly with the manufacturer to have the full benefit of their cover.

Independent reviews for Dundee Trusted Trader Scheme at referenceline.com