They say the customer is always right, but that doesn’t always mean it’s the right customer! There’s a great deal of advice online (and rightly so), arming consumers with the information they need to choose a reliable builder, but it works both ways. Asking the right questions about a potential new project can help you determine whether or not it’s worth your time and effort. And with the UK spending an impressive £55 billion on home improvement renovations since March, time is certainly precious.
Not only does this set expectations amongst all parties, it helps to strengthen relationships from the off. Here are a few things to consider:
Planning submissions and building regulations
The first thing you should be checking is whether the client has all of the necessary permissions before any work begins. Of course, many builders will take care of this themselves, but it’s important for everyone to be aware of where they stand to avoid any unwanted surprises. The same goes for any restrictions the property may have, from conservation area limitations, to drainage problems. This really can be a gamechanger, and even if you do wish to proceed with the project, it will undoubtedly have a knock-on effect on your time and cost estimates.
Coordinating other trades
It’s also a good idea to be aware of any other services that have been, or need to be, coordinated. This may range from plumbers and electricians, to painters and decorators and it’s important to consider so that no toes get trodden on, but also to allow you to work smoothly and professionally alongside other contractors. It also pays to understand where the responsibility lies to source this additional work, if it’s considered closely related to your own.
It’s an obvious one, but worth reiterating none the less. Make sure you discuss a realistic timeframe for the conservatory build, including a best case and worst-case scenario if possible. Take the time to convey to your customer any elements that may affect your estimated timeframe. Complications happen, delays happen, but most clients will be understanding if they feel like they are kept in the loop and you’re being completely transparent with them.
Quotes and costs
This can be make or break for both parties, so be upfront and honest, and ask enough questions to fully understand your client’s vision. The term ‘conservatory’ can mean different things to different people, from a very simple, traditional conservatory, to a period orangery or bespoke winter garden.
As well as the estimated cost for the project, be careful to communicate to your client whether your quote is an estimated or fixed-price quote. No one wants to hear that their project has run over budget and no one wants to deliver that news either.
It’s also important to discuss whether or not you require a deposit, as this may impact your potential client’s decision.
It may seem like a long way off, but again it’s worth setting out expectations clearly from the start, and that includes aftercare. In the unfortunate incident that something does go wrong in the future, can you be contacted? And will any subsequent work be chargeable? It’s an important topic to cover because if you do offer aftercare it could sway the decision in your favour, and if you don’t and it’s a deal-breaker, you’ve likely saved everyone a headache in the long run.
Mark Caulfield is Owner & Founder of The Oakfields Group, a long-established family-run business specialising in bespoke, out of the ordinary spaces for commercial and residential use, including conservatories, orangeries and winter gardens.