Hurrican Shutters

Installing "Peace of Mind"

Contractor Referrals 101 Part 1

Posted by cat5shuttersllc on December 12, 2011

Contractor Referrals 101 Part 1If it’s no secret that referrals are among the top ways professional services firms get leads and new business, then why do so many providers struggle when it comes to getting referrals?

We know our buyers rely on colleagues, associates, and friends to recommend service providers. And we know when a prospect comes to us via this route that some of our work is already done for us. While most professionals recognize this, they don’t effectively tap into their networks to proactively generate referrals.

We invite you to follow our blog where we will cover useful tips on major referral services, websites and how to interpret them. These wonderful tips are offered by Sal Vaglica, This Old House online. Thank you Sal.

In a perfect world you’d have a black book filled with the names of reliable contractors who provide top-notch service at a reasonable price—and are thoughtful enough to wipe their boots before entering the house. Realistically, we usually rely on word of mouth, where finding a good plumber or roofer means asking a trusted friend, relative, or neighbor for a reference. But what if this networking fails to uncover a well-recommended pro? At that point, most of us turn to the Internet. Recently, it seems like websites dedicated to connecting contractors with homeowners are all over the web.

Wading through the plethora of websites offering to lead you to a qualified contractor can be daunting, so we’ve done some homework for you. We’ve researched contractor referral to create a cheat sheet on what to expect and how to use them successfully to get the best home improvement pro for your money.

Homeowner-to-Homeowner Websites

Angie’s List

This website is a nationwide, user-generated rating and referral system. It relies on homeowners to grade and comment on contractors. The site, which launched in 1995, has grown to include over 300 professional categories. In exchange for detailed reports based on other homeowners’ experiences with specific contractors in trades such as painting, carpentry, and gutter repair, the site charges users about $50 a year.

Homeowners evaluate contractors in areas like price, quality of work, and professionalism and award them letter grades from A to F—just like your high school report card. As an Angie’s List member, you can search for contractors by zip code within your market, select a pro, check out how other homeowners have rated his or her work, and read about their experiences working with the contractor. The website is driven by the experiences of homeowners, and that’s a responsibility that users take to heart. “There is this culture of ‘I’m supposed to report,’” says Angie’s List founder Angie Hicks. “The users understand the list is built by fellow members and they need to report on their experience with a plumber because if they don’t someone else won’t report on their roofer, and the system falls apart.”

Professional-to-Homeowner Websites

Contractors.com is a more traditional referral service. You submit a specific project, like the renovation of a 100-square-foot bathroom. A team of former contractors reviews your project for accuracy and submits it to licensed and insured contractors in your area. Then you hear back from local contractors interested in working on the project. Response time varies, but typically within 24 hours you?ll have been contacted by at least three contractors.

Use of the site is free to homeowners; it’s the contractors who pay for the service. Contractors who fit the licensing and insurance qualifications of Contractors.com can pay yearly dues to be “certified” by the site, which entitles them to pay additional money for leads on projects submitted by homeowners. Contractors can also pay more for premium placement in the website’s contractor directory, which is visible to site visitors and includes homeowner-generated reviews and ratings.

Pro-to-homeowner referral sites similar to Contractors.com include:

  • Servicemagic: Matches homeowners with prescreened pros and also allows users to comment on contractors.
  • NeedContractor: Users submit the details of a project and are contacted within 48 hours by at least 4 interested contractors.
  • Bidclerk: Users submit the details of a project and are contacted by contractors bidding to do the work.
  • ReliableRemodeler.com: Users submit the details of a project first from 21 popular home improvement categories.
  • ContactorUS.com: Provides contact information for pre-screened contractors based on project details.

A legitimate contractor will usually want to see a larger project in person before giving you a quote. For quick routine projects, like fixing a running toilet or replacing an outlet, a preliminarily visit might not be necessary, but you can get a good feel for a contractor?s professionalism by phone. Use sites like Angie’s List and Contractors.com as stepping-stones toward finishing larger projects, and do not rush into hiring the first contractor you call or that contacted you. Experienced contractors can offer insights into hidden costs you might have missed when they see the project in person. Reading homeowner reports on a contractor beforehand can put you at ease before meeting them.

Once a project is underway, the better sites offer customer support—staffed by real people. Jamie Weiss had an extensive renovation done on her Statesville, North Carolina, house that involved everything from new floors and painting to wiring and plumbing. With a general contractor scheduling the sub-contractors, there were a few mishaps along the way. ?I called Contractors.com, and their agents discussed the problem with me and gave me the confidence to explain myself professionally to the contractor,? says Weiss. ?If the contractor was late, the website would call them for me.? Angie’s List goes even further, actually stepping in to settle disputes between homeowners and contractors.

We hope you find these tips useful. Please follow our blog on Wednesday when we cover “Questions to Ask When Considering a Contractor Referral Website”

Distributed by Viestly

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