When you have an old house like mine there comes a time when it’s failings you’ve wilfully ignored start to demand your attention. For instance, I knew it was time to get a new fence when it was leaning 45 degrees instead of 90. I’d been able to ignore it when it was 70 but 45 meant I couldn’t get the car in anymore. I’d like to think that my slow response to this things is less to do with laziness and more to do with my fear of tradesmen. Because they don’t make it easy.

When I was learning desktop support at Tafe one of the things that they kept harping on was “keep the customer informed”. Customer service was the big theme of the course which was no big deal to me as it had been ingrained since my first day on the job at Woolworths. So are they not teaching this skill to the apprentices?

Energex, Telstra, electricians, builders and plumbers are all busy and skilled men yet they fail dramatically in their time management and communication. If I take a day off to wait for one and they say they are going to be there at 8.30am I expect them to be there. If they are going to be late then it’s not that big a deal – as long as they call me to say they are going to be late. I can’t stand waiting around for hours and then leave only to find that they turned up and left a few minutes after I drove off.

But I guess the fact that they even make an appointment with you means that you have won half the battle. Half the time you can’t even get them to come out and give you a quote. Is there some little club you have to join to discover where all the good ones are?

Then there is the whole fear that you are being ripped off. It’s not like you can walk in to Bunnings and look at pictures of painters and their work and compare the prices. “Oh, he’s cheap but nasty, this guy is expensive but superb, or this guy is cheap, does a good job but leaves paint all over the place”. You have to rely on friends recommendations but those people are usually booked up because everyone is in the know. Other times you get lucky and see the painter across the road and spy on him to see if he is any good.

The whole system is really pot luck and requires a hell of a lot of effort from the customer. It seems like you are the one that has to keep ringing them up to find out things and that is not the way I’m used to as a consumer. Somehow it’s always a tradesman’s market and never the customer. What they need is some woman in an office to keep track of them all to ring up people and say how far away they’ll be. That would at least make us less irate.

The fact that there are less people going in to trades says to me that this is where the money will be in 5-10 years time. Forget about IT and the Law, spend your days painting, sanding or building. It’s probably more rewarding than listening to your manager explain why you are having another organisational restructure two years after your last one. Plus, it seems you don’t have to practise customer service!



1 thought on “Make a million, learn a trade

  1. Kel says:

    We have a telephone company that we use to maintain our phone system at work, and I’ll happily provide you with their name. Talk Communications.

    Their customer service is excellent! They are good to their word, spend the time to listen to exactly what you want, and offer impressive follow up service after installing the system. And best of all, they are always keeping the client informed.

    Example – a tech. was coming in to reprogram the system as everyone had moved in the office and the main administrator phone (mine) had to be relocated. They asked for a written request which I faxed through. Within an hour, they faxed back a quote, we signed and returned. The girl at the office called with a time of installation – the following day at 11am. She rang the next day at 8.30am and confirmed that he would still be coming. At 10am, she rang and said that his current job was taking a little bit longer than expected, he still thinks that he would be there by 11, but that would it be okay for us if we made it 11.30am to be safe – it was fine.

    He arrived at 11.15, and was quick, thorough and had a sense of humour. To reward him, I provided him with a coffee, water, and conversation while he worked. I actually told him about the time my mother used the chopping block at a hotel for firewood in NZ. 🙂

    But their service allowed me to keep everyone in our company informed, and therefore happy. THAT’S good customer service.


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