Setting out clear terms and conditions is an essential part of ensuring jobs go smoothly

Irrespective of its nature, being involved in a complaint is never a pleasant experience. It can be detrimental to business and take up an enormous amount of time trying to find a successful resolution that appeases all parties. Learning from the experience of processing a complaint provides any business with an opportunity to address any underlying issues. The observable trends of the type of complaints often have a common denominator. Where this is the case, this can be addressed relatively easily with minimal cost. Often, the common denominator with any complaint is in regard to failed or misunderstood expectations. Where there has been ineffective business project management, poorly defined roles and responsibilities, and no formally agreed extent and limitations of work, complaints will typically follow. ADMINISTRATION MATTERS While a contractor should have an appropriate level of technical knowledge and a high standard of installation practice to meet customer expectations, they should also look to add good project management skills and a clear audit trail for all appropriate documentation. The first stage of this audit trail is usually a contract. A formal written contract is not something that just protects the consumer – it is also a legally binding document a contractor can fall back on if required. A contract ensures both contractor and customer know where they stand and what the expected outcomes of the job are. It also covers you against things that might have been said, although not officially agreed. Verbal agreements can be legally binding, but a written agreement is safer and removes any misunderstanding.

When it comes to writing a contract, there are some standard details you should look to include:

• The name, address and telephone numbers of both yourself and the customer

• Commencement and completion dates, including penalties for late completion

• The technical details, plans and materials that will be used

• Details of any permits or council authorisation needed to commence the project, and who will apply for them • Names of any subcontractors and details about their payment

• A provision that the contractor will put right any defective work and pay for any damage to property

• A provision that part of the fee may be withheld until work has been inspected and any defects put right

• Agreement that the site will be left tidy throughout and at the end of the project

• Payment details, including the total cost for the job plus any deposits needed upfront and how this will be paid Having a clear and consistent paper trail will save contractors both time and money, and is something to refer back to should any dispute arise. Clearly defined terms and conditions will also provide assurances to the customer and can set a business apart in terms of professionalism. Failure to have these in place from the start can often lead to problems further down the line, particularly when it comes to the time to invoice. If the customer withholds monies for whatever reason, the contractor has little room to negotiate without a proper agreement in place. With customers now quick to use social media to vent any frustrations, avoiding a dispute is something all contractors need to be wary of. If some simple business administrative processes are implemented at the start, it can lead to a lot fewer headaches at the end.

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