".com" Contractor Referral Services

As a great fan of the internet and the web I am sad to report about some recent reports of problems with some ".com" contractor referral services. Consumers report some; poor quality work, high prices, and poor follow through. Contractors complain about too many "window" shoppers and customers who look for the lowest prices and don't want to hear about: important "details", the reputation and track record of the contractor, or the quality of the work to be performed.

The biggest problems appear to me to be related to the difficulty in qualifying a contractors and the complexity of most projects. In my review of some of the ".com" contractor referral services, I have not found enough attention given to the quality of such services.

Qualifying contractors is not an easy job. Checking on licensing, bonding, and insurance is relatively easy, in some states you can do that on the internet. More difficult is the process of securing meaningful references and complete background information. For example: has the contractor in question operated under several different names in the past?

Based upon my review of the ".com" contractor referral services, not enough attention is being payed to the process of selecting contractors. This is partially the result of the difficulty inherent in the contractor qualifications process, and the desire to offer the service to a large geographic area.

Good Contractors tend to be very busy these days, and have been for the last few years. Many are not looking for more work, and have enough referral traffic to keep their calenders booked for months in advance. Such quality contractors are not very likely to sign up for a referral service which prides itself on low prices. Such quality contractors know that low prices are the very best single indicator of poor quality work and business failure. And everything that I have learned confirms that conclusion. Unfortunately, this means that good contractors are most likely:

  • expensive;
  • booked for a long time; and,
  • not interested in being part of high volume .com referral service.

Good Quality Referral Services must have the capability to collect and maintain reliable information about "their" contractors. This is a complex, time consuming, and expensive process. Most of the ".com" services are not set up to do such work. These types of services should be regarded as a contractor "listing" service. Part of such a "listing" process may also involve some qualifying data, but not the necessary amount required to make a final selection.

In selecting a ".com" contractor referral service, one should look at the following:

  • How rigorous is the contractor qualification process? or conversely,
  • How easy is it to be listed? (hint: easy is bad)
  • Are the contractors required to maintain certain standards of work? (building codes, manufacturers specifications, practices of the trade)
  • What happens if the customer is dissatisfied with the work? (warrantees etc.)
  • What assistance does the .com provide the customer in making an informed decision?

The web has the capability of developing quality contractor referral services. But for now, I urge great caution!

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