5. If Things Go Wrong

What Can Go Wrong


Hello and welcome to part five.

A Recap of our last lesson

Having an attractive personality with a good attitude will heavily weigh in your favour when quoting your customers. 

Producing professional detailed itemised quotes will not only increase your chances of winning the job but will also increase your profit margins.

Using subcontractors to carry out work that you either are not qualified or haven’t got the time to do is a sure way of offering your customers a full service and again will increase your profit margins. This also includes supplying goods/furniture and using your best trade discounts.

Using good methods with a survey document when you carry out a survey will help avoid underpricing.


Accidental Damage

Damage to property, vehicles and installation items. Using  Liability insurance, negotiate with the customer, was it you?

Unsatisfied customer

Work not up to customer standard, place left untidy

Falling out with the customer

Customer is always right?, Your word against theirs, why part payment is key to having some power of leverage, Pictures is proof


What you can do to avoid or minimise any losses


Now, here’s the thing. If you are a plumber who’s work has never leaked, are you a real plumber? If you are a tradesman who’s never fallen out with a customer, then how long have you been trading for?

No matter who we are, where we are or what we do, sometimes we all make mistakes and just can’t avoid things going wrong but we can minimise the risk and plan for: if and when they do go wrong.

As with any job, good preparation is a key to success. Preparing for if and when things can go wrong puts you in a much stronger position when having to deal with these matters. The outcome is your money, your stress levels and above all your reputation.

If things do go wrong, we are responsible for customer service which is where the money is.

Nobody wants a bad experience!

Accidental Damage

Yes, paint on the carpet has happened to me along with damaged wallpaper, paintwork, water coming though the ceiling and even damage to brand new appliances that I had yet to install. The real question is, what do you do about it?

Don’t panic is the first thing that comes to mind and liability insurance is the obvious backup plan if all else fails yet it can be cheaper to hire a carpet cleaning company than pay your insurance excess.

I have been very fortunate not to have made any claims as I have always either repaired the damage, discounted the customer or thrown in some additional work for free.

One or more of the above normally solves the problem. The key points are negotiation and flexibility. If these things do happen to you then at first, you must hold back from saying too much as you need to work out which is the best move to make.

When you start work in a property, it’s a good idea to have a brief check to see if there is any previous damage, just so you know it wasn’t you.

Of course, prevention is better than cure and you should become more careful with experience.

Remember to remove pictures from the wall, move or cover up furniture which could be in your way and only unpackage what you need when you need it unless the packaging is damaged or it’s a bath or shower tray which must be checked for hairline cracks on day one.

I usually ask the customer if they have anywhere for storing goods to keep them safe.

Unsatisfied Customers

Through all my experience I have learnt that you can't please everyone but what you really should come to know and understand is what is reasonable and what is acceptable. Going the extra mile to get it right is maybe all that's needed to please the customer and save the day and above all, your reputation. It's always best to comply if it's reasonable and get the work up to what you believe the customer deems as acceptable. Humility, patience and flexibility with some negotiation skills always come in handy. Most people will tell you that you can't get on with every one and this is also true when it comes to your customers.

Falling out with your customers

If in doubt, don’t do business with a customer who you have a reason to believe could be a problem. Fair enough, we shouldn’t be overly judgmental but there are times when you really don’t want to take a big risk with a big job especially when it comes down to the person you are going to be working for. You can’t suss them all out but I have turned down work before for this very reason and that was after I had sent the quote.

Remember, no deposit, no work! you can also carry out a soft credit check which is a tool available in QuickFile.

Nobody expects to fall out with a customer but when they do, it can be for a variety of reasons. Whether it’s you or the customer with the wrong attitude, a misunderstanding or even all of the above, it can be a nightmare but fortunately, it’s rare.

Experience can help you avoid working for customers who you think could end up being a handful but sometimes you can just land yourself somebody who overreacts. If this happens, don’t lose your temper as this will only make matters worse.

Taking pictures not only helps you build your profile, but it is also a way of proving the job is how you left it. Worst-case scenario, people get nasty and tell lies that can be difficult to defend when it’s your word against theirs.

The customer is always right? I personally don’t agree with this but unfortunately, with insufficient evidence, this is usually the case in court which is why a lot of the time it might be best to avoid this scenario altogether even if it means cutting your losses with your tail between your legs.


Going to court is an ugly business which is costly, unpredictable, stressful and can be a very lengthy process which is why there are some precautions which we can take to avoid this whole process altogether. Like I said, preparation is key!


Being able to prove you have been reasonable and on the right side of the law should in most cases convince a customer that if it did go to court, you would most certainly win.

Everything including agreements, changes to agreements, payments, additional charges and terms and conditions along with your disclaimer should be clarified by email. This is reliable evidence in court.

Most of the time, this just means the customer has replied to important emails discussing changes and having multiple opportunities for the customer to view your terms and conditions along with your disclaimer via links in your emails and on your website etc…

Taking pictures also gives you leverage which can disprove lies.

Make sure you are paid weekly and the cost of any materials in advance. Doing this will minimise your losses if the customer does not pay.

If the job reaches completion, have a job sign off document which not only activates their guarantee only once they have signed it but also proves that everything is in check meaning the customer agrees all work is completed to their satisfaction. 

Additionally, ask the customer to write a comment about your work on the job sign off sheet. This is also proof they are happy with your work.

I have legal insurance and would definitely recommend it.

This only costs around £100 per year depending on how much cover you wish to have. I believe this is worth every penny as I have used this in the past which helped me avoid all the stress of going to court, yet had I gone to court, I would have had full legal representation. Just having that special point of contact who can give you the legal answers to a sticky situation can go along way.

I have been to court once and this was the reason why I now have legal insurance. The problem was that I failed to understand some of the legal jargon which meant losing the case due to a technicality.

Remember it’s not always about winning or losing and the money. It’s also the time you spend and stress you go through so it’s best to know how strong your ground really is.

Accidental Damage

Prevention is always the best choice, however, repair work, negotiation and being flexible will help safeguard your reputation, however, your liability insurance is always there if you really need it

Unsatisfied customer

Humility, patience and flexibility with some negotiation skills always come in handy and is sometimes what is needed to get the job done

Falling out with the customer

Be prepared for any eventuality as you can’t get on with everybody but whatever you do, don’t lose your temper. Always remember you are responsible for your reputation


Everyone in business should take precautions. Proof in emails, pictures and a job sign off document can be all that’s needed to gain the higher ground if you go to court. Always remember the importance of the job sign off the document as this alone can be enough to make the customer pay.

In the next lesson, we will be looking at....

How you get to grip with

  • How much you are paid
  • When you are paid
  • The method of payment

And what to do about 

  • Forgetful payers
  • People who avoid payment
  • Debt collection

And how you can be a winner with your

  • Best customer service
  • Guarantee
  • Other useful skills