Within the business world, competition is a common factor that impacts on all companies, regardless of their size.
For any organisation to succeed in a competitive market, it is essential that a clear strategy is implemented to establish the identity of the business and set it apart from competitors. One means of doing this is to make sure that the company trades as ethically as possible.
Any company can claim to be trading ethically - and many do - so it is essential that any claim is supported by fact. One of the first things to establish is what this means for each business.
While many plumbing and heating companies frequently win new business through recommendations from existing satisfied customers, very few are able to avoid disagreements altogether. Each will have its share of demanding customers - those who are seen to be more difficult than the majority - and misunderstandings are another factor, especially as the majority of customers are unlikely to have a detailed understanding of heating and plumbing systems.
Bearing this in mind, one of the ways to support claims of ethical trading is having a predetermined process in place to deal with disputes and complaints as quickly and fairly as possible. Ideally, this should be as simple as possible, and designed to prevent the misunderstanding or disagreement escalating further.
There are a number of advantages to this, in addition to the fact that having an effective dispute resolution process in place will support the company's claims to be trading ethically.
One of these is reducing impact on the company, allowing it to get on with other business, while another potential advantage is that successfully resolving a dispute should mean that the customer pays their bill, which they would otherwise have possibly refused to do.
Continuing this line of thought, successfully resolving a dispute can also result in the customer continuing to place their business with the company. If this is achieved in a cordial manner, it is also more likely that the client will see the value of the company's ethical trading policy and therefore be more willing to recommend its services to family, friends and neighbours.
Of course, the easiest way to deal with any disagreement is to sit down with the customer and listen to their concerns (this is sometimes all that's required and may prove to be the only action necessary), then explain things from your company's perspective.
It is always best to bear in mind that there could be three versions of the truth, as each side is likely to have their own and the 'actual truth' is likely to be a combination of each of these.
Should this method prove unsuccessful, however, a more formal process should be considered and this has been made easier since October last year, when all EU member states were required to make Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) services available.
In the UK, this is delivered through the Chartered Trading Standards Institute and can be accessed through a number of trade organisations.
An ADR scheme is designed to provide a cost effective approach that will provide a quicker and more cost effective solution to resolving disagreements and also avoiding court action.
Providing access to a scheme will, of course, further support each company's claim to be trading ethically and can therefore be a valuable tool in standing apart from competitors.
Further information on ADR and how to access it can be found on the Trustmark website: www.trustmark.org.uk
Not only is ethical trading a better way to run any company, it can also be a key business enabler when implemented correctly.
The 5 top advantages of ethical trading for heating installers
Improved relations with customers
Quick resolution to any disputes or misunderstandings
Assisting in the USP of the business
Providing reassurance to existing and new clients
Encouraging word of mouth recommendations