You say you want a resolution

Stephen McCluskey, managing director at Which? Trusted Traders explains how Alternative Dispute Resolution can improve consumer confidence in your construction business

You may, or may not, have heard about Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) but, from April 2015, new UK regulations will come into force which set out the common standards for ADR providers. While using ADR will still be voluntary for traders in the building and construction industry, we, the team at Which? Trusted Traders, believe that ADR is something that you should know the advantages of.

It’s staggering to know that the number of complaints made against tradespeople last year was 1.3 million, according to Ombudsman Services’ annual Consumer Action Monitor. That’s 2% of all customer complaints made in the UK. As a builder, ADR is a tool that you can use to increase consumer confidence and so improve the growth of your business. Every tradesperson who signs up to Which? Trusted Traders is able to access ADR. So what is ADR and why is it so important for us to offer it to our traders and customers?

As consumers, if a product we buy from a shop turns out to be faulty, we are entitled to a refund or an exchange without having to jump through too many hoops. To encourage consumer confidence, a retailer’s own return and refund policies may often exceed what people are entitled to from a legal point of view – this gives people the confidence to make purchases knowing they are protected if something goes wrong. And, while construction industry transactions can be more complex than those seen in the retail sector, people are more likely to have confidence in your profession if they feel protected.

Your customers, like consumers in a shop, naturally want to know that any issues with the work you are providing - whether related to the materials you have used, your craftsmanship, or personnel - will be resolved as swiftly as possible.

No doubt, whether you are an independent builder or engineer or you work for a larger organisation, you will have a procedure or a set of policies in place to ensure your customers can access your complaints process. At Which? Trusted Traders we believe it’s in your interest that these matters are rectified quickly to preserve your personal and business reputation.

But sometimes that isn’t always possible – this can be due to circumstances surrounding the dispute or perhaps a reluctance to resolve the matter on either side. Without access to an ADR scheme, the alternative for the consumer or trader is to go to court which can be an expensive, time-consuming and stressful process.

As a builder or engineer these legal proceedings can also result in negative attention for your business. Even if you do go on to eventually win the case, the damage can already be done, either through the press or through word of mouth. It is in these instances that offering your customers access to an effective ADR mechanism can prove invaluable. At Which? Trusted Traders we offer all traders who sign up and pass our assessment process access to ADR through our partnership with Ombudsman Services.

ADR schemes offer an alternative route for resolving disputes between consumers and businesses. Customers who are unhappy with the service of trader belonging to the Which? Trusted Trader scheme first raise a complaint with the trader directly.

While most issues are resolved amicably, if a resolution isn’t reached after eight weeks the complaint can be escalated to our ADR provider, Ombudsman Services, who investigate and make an independent and impartial recommendation to reach an amicable resolution. The service is free for consumers to use and remedies can vary from an apology to a financial award.

For traders, offering access to ADR shows existing and potential customers that you value good service and are willing to be held to account. Feedback from organisation that have used ADR tends to be positive. A survey by the European Commission survey indicates that 82% of businesses who have used ADR would use it again.

Since its launch Which? Trusted Traders, has offered its traders and our consumers access to ADR. Feedback from both sides has been extremely positive. By offering ADR as part of the Which? Trusted Trader scheme, it shows that we are ahead of the curve and highlights that we, like the traders we endorse, are serious about ensuring there is backup and protection for consumers should something go wrong.

For more information on Which? Trusted Traders and ADR visit:

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