How to Get References to Reveal All
To learn all you can about a contractor, go to those who have had experience with them……..and get them talking! They are a store-house of valuable information! Usually they are happy to talk about their experience (good or bad) if you ask the right questions. It makes it easy for them and it’s valuable beyond words for you.
You might spare yourself a real disaster or you might find yourself a top notch contractor who makes the process a wonderful experience. How much is that worth? If you can put a price on that, please let me know. I have never heard of anyone being able to do this.
Call the reference when you think it’s not inconvenient (don’t call first thing on a Monday morning for instance). After explaining why you are calling, ask them if this is a good time, or if another time would be better for them. If they are relaxed, and not stressed about time when you visit with them you will learn more.
Don’t ask only general questions. (Such as ‘Were you happy with your experience?’) They will usually give a simple answer with no details. You are looking for details. You want to know their feelings.
However, it is fine to begin with general questions just to break the ice, and give them time to become comfortable:
Was it a good experience for you?
Did you get what you wanted?
Would you recommend this company to a friend?
When it feels right, begin asking specific questions. This is where the real gold is:
Did you feel that the contractor wants what is best for his clients, or that he is mainly looking out for his own interest? Why?
Was there more focus on time or quality?
Was the project completed on time? If not, Why?
Was quality demanded for you? Or was good-enough okay?
Was there adequate time to make decisions or were answers demanded immediately?
Could you communicate easily? Was the contractor approachable?
Do you feel you were dealt with honestly? Why or why not?
Did you feel heard? Did you feel good effort was made to accommodate you?
How were changes handled?
How often was the boss on the job?
Could you get a sense of how closely he worked with his employees? Did they have good rapport, and work toward the same goal?
Did he actually pick up tools and work? Or was he a paper contractor?
Did you work together well and develop a good relationship?
How did he handle problems? Did he pass off responsibility or take it on himself?
Was the company demanding in any way?
The answers you get will reveal volumes. You may not have to ask all the questions, as they may be answered during your conversation if you visit long enough. Hopefully, you will learn if they had any ‘bumps’ during the installation process, and how they were handled.
It’s worth it. Your time and money and future heating costs are on the line.