When you employ a professional, such as a solicitor, marketing consultant, accountant or financial advisor, there is a lot at stake and business-owners often feel wary about parting with their money. SmallBusiness.co.uk offers some advice.
When you employ a professional, such as a solicitor, marketing consultant, accountant or financial advisor, there is a lot at stake and business-owners often feel wary about parting with their money. So how can you work out whether to trust a company to deliver on its promises? SmallBusiness.co.uk and Jo Parker of online professional service provider directory Certain Shops offer some advice:
Look beyond a company’s marketing materials: Few of us would employ a member of staff before checking out their references, so it seems bizarre that we don’t always collect references for every company we commission. Independent references are a great way of finding out about a company’s past performance, but be careful to look beyond the testimonials on their marketing materials. All companies publicise their success stories; so how do you find out if they’ve got any skeletons in their closet?
Do your own research: For a start you can do your own research into a company’s existing and previous customers. Find out who they’ve worked for and make some phone calls. You never really know what working with a new company is going to be like until you start, but at least this way you can find out their track record.
Think about what you’re looking for in a company – whether it’s an efficient service, transparent charges or honesty and integrity you want. If good communication skills really matter to you, look at the company’s website and get a sense of how they use language. Do they use clear, accessible sentences, or do they love their jargon?
Look for customer feedback: In addition to these two techniques you can look for independent customer feedback, which is now more freely available via the internet.
Websites such as Amazon and eBay have long relied on feedback from other users to verify the credentials of a member, and the business world is now beginning to use the internet in a similar way.
Look for examples of ongoing relationships: Look for case studies on the company’s website and get in touch with past clients. If you can, speak to past clients personally, a lot can be gleaned from the tone of a conversation that helps you to find out whether customers have got the service they were promised. Evidence of companies that have established ongoing relationships with their clients is also crucial as it highlights an ability to maintain long-term partnerships, rather than just provide a short-term fix.
Certain Shops is a free-to-use online directory of professional service providers. For more information visit www.certainshops.com.