Continuing my quest for the bathroom beautiful I decided that Dodgy Dave’s quote was a bit high. 

 For about half a week’s work he quoted me just under £5000, a price that did not include the services of his plumber, electrician or plasterer.   I priced up the stuff I needed to buy and decided that I could do it myself.  In these days of hi-tech push fit connections and easy cut plastic tubing, plumbing has never been simpler so I employed my project management skills and listed the required tasks in the order they needed to be completed.

 This weekend I managed to complete tasks 1-3 on the list of 20.  Number 4 requires cutting a hole in a 3 foot thick Purbeck stone wall so I am getting a bloke in for that.  Once the window has been installed we can get on with the rest of the tasks

 Having obtained the necessary permissions from the planning department of my local district council, British equivalent of City Hall, the project is now in full swing. 

The building trade in England would benefit from applying the customer care principles that we use so extensively in the IT support industry.

So far the work I have done was valued by Dodgy Dave at around a £1000.  It took me nearly a day, including two trips to the local tip to dispose of the rubbish.  I spent about £30 on plumbing fittings and tools so I’m well under budget so far.  

 It proves to me that it isn’t only the way you speak to customers that is important, it is also important to deal fairly with them and not to bank on their inexperience to bump up the prices. 

 When I tell people in the trade that I have some knowledge of the building trade their attitude changes (My Father was a master builder and I worked for him for a number of years when I left school) it is obvious that they depend on the ignorance of their prospective clients to be able to take more from the work than is really called for.

 The other thing that upsets me is the assumption that I am “One of the Lads” when I ask for advice, when I went to the plumbing store for some fittings the young lad behind the counter was somewhat familiar, calling me “Mate” and regaling me with his version of how things should be done, I normally am fairly broad-minded but I felt it inappropriate to use bad language in a customer relations environment. 

 All of the customer handling practices I have witnessed in the last few weeks have left me saddened, I don’t expect sales staff to fawn over me, I just want to be spoken to as though I am a normal person.  I am buying equipment and information from them, just like my customers buy my skills and knowledge.

Over the years I have witnessed a lot of buzzwords in business, and it has been refreshing to come into contact with an industry that has never been plagued with them.  TQM, Just in Time Logistics, Outsourcing and all the other attempts to quantify what it is that makes businesses work well have all got their good points and the not so good.  It isn’t possible to stick rigidly to one system of quality; I would prefer to take that which is good and use it, keeping the freedom to disregard the methods that don’t fit with your own business plan.  I keep coming back to the fundamental belief that the key to any kind of relationship, whether it be work, business, finance, romantic or family is first and last about the big C, communication.

 Communication comes in all kinds, the words you type, the words you say, the way you present yourself, your actions, the way you look at people, the way you posture yourself. 

 Can you say “I love you” with your hand over your mouth, looking at the opposite end of the room whilst yawning and eating a hot dog?

 No, you gaze straight into her (or his) eyes, ignoring everything else in the world.

 If you are trying to sell a customer a new system the same applies, but maybe forget the dozen red long stem roses, the eye contact is important but maybe less intense!

If you are pitching for business or attending a job interview you dress appropriately, smart and clean.  You speak politely without grovelling; you can assert yourself but not aggressively.  You should avoid over familiarity or any behaviour that does not show the proper respect for the person to whom you are pitching, remembering that if you are applying for a job, quoting for a job or trying to sell something, the first thing you are selling is yourself.  If you don’t sell yourself you won’t sell anything else.  That’s what Dodgy Dave did wrong.  Even after I decided that he couldn’t be as bad as his first impression, his pricing confirmed to me that maybe I was right with my first impression.