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The Reliability of Contractor References

Thanks for your replies. I actually disagree with the notion that the information on a website would indicate the level of work a contractor can do. Think about how east it is to save a photo from someone else's job here and use it for yourself. Unfortunately, you always have to worry about the few rotten apples out there. Even if the pictures are from the contractor's jobs, he/she is going to display the more attractive. I guess you could argue the same thing about any advertising. My point is that while I believe that unsolicited customer referrals are good, contractor's references can be misleading and therefore how valuable are they. I've gone on a few websites that connect you to contractors in your area and some of the testimonials are so sickening sweet that they should have signed it 'Love Mom' at the end. When I read something like that, I don't feel reassured- I get more worried.

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  • Many of the jobs that I get come from customer referals. When potential customers ask for references, I provide them with a few names. Of course, these references are customers that I have an agreement with and it is done via email. It's my opinion that contractor provided references are not really useful to a potential customer because they are 'set up'. Who would use a dissatisfied customer as a reference? Other than email, I feel that it is obtrusive to my customer's privacy. I realize that references provide some customers with a sense of security but I think that it can give a false sense of security. What do you other contractors feel about this?

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  • Timco
    Timco Member Posts: 3,040

    On bigger jobs I ask the cust to write a simple letter, at his / her convienience, and I provide a few suggestions for the content such as did I fix it, before & after behavior, did I have the tools, etc...I keep a few on file for different types of jobs so if a steam job comes up, I can show him / her a happy steam job customer's letter. I am asked occasionally for a letter or something.

    Just a guy running some pipes.
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,490
    I know

    that some contractors send potential clients to the Wall and have them search their name. This works especially well if the contractor has posted photos of his work here, and his peers have commented about that work in a positive way.
    Retired and loving it.
  • D107
    D107 Member Posts: 1,849
    You can tell alot from a contractor's website

    if he has one. Usually includes photos, testimonials, philosophy and heating information, which as a HO I find very useful. If contractor is signed up with HeatingHelp's 'Find a Pro', then you can often go from its mini-website to the contractor's own.

    The Wall is also useful--not only as Dan suggests to search on their name in the post above--but also by helping to educate the customer to enable them to have a few trick questions up their sleeves, the wrong answers to which can quickly eliminate a candidate. Of course there are alot of grey areas in this field, so HO has to make sure his questions are the right ones.


  • ScottMP
    ScottMP Member Posts: 5,884

    If you are to take that pessimistic approach to any advertisement than you are correct, why believe any of it.

    On the other hand, if a contractor has satisfied a home owners needs and done it well, than it should be easy to have letters of recommendations. If it sounds too good to be true, than it probably is. At some point you must take a leap of faith and believe something (Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus). First impressions mean allot and the impression you receive from reading reference letters should set the tone. Meeting a contractor should also tell you how they run their business.


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  • Jeremy A
    Jeremy A Member Posts: 4
    another confidence builder

    My last heating client asked me "Do you have any references, I only know your name from a flier", I knew just what to answer. Having just come back to self employment, I told him to ask my former employer. I said: "if they say I am an incompetent menace, then I will let you bother some other happy customer. If you have cordial relations with a competitor, than that can be another avenue.
  • Weezbo
    Weezbo Member Posts: 6,232
    seems one would \"Check the Source\",

    on referrals ....

    When a contractor mentions to a customer that he would recommend these people, it is usually for the reason that they are fairly certain that they themselves will not likely have time in the future to help the customer . In service work you definitely would want someone that you knew making the service call.
    The reason being they would be able to think things through. . know what they were looking at and know that were there any questions ,they could contact you for any program or additional information that you might have available on a system. for the most part there is often little likelihood that the reference will be able to take on more customers, the referral being basically a possible round toit, nothing more...
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