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Raising the Standard: Consumer Confidence

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Consumer confidence is often one of the first victims of economic instability and financial uncertainty.

In such times, people are forced to tighten their belts and prioritise what they spend their money on. They might cut back on home repairs and renovations, either opting not to have work carried out or looking for bargain-basement options from unreliable or disreputable traders.

As in any time of crisis, rogue and criminal traders are quick to exploit people’s vulnerabilities and concerns, pouncing on opportunities to offer cut-price solutions and leaving a trail of shoddy workmanship, inflated costs, emotional damage and financial hardship in their wake.

This causes direct harm to the victims, but it also damages consumer confidence within the wider community and hits the pockets of legitimate local traders.

It is therefore important for legitimate traders, including members of Kent County Council’s Trading Standards Checked scheme, to inspire confidence and demonstrate the value they provide to their customers and the local community.

They can do this in a number of ways.

Businesses should communicate openly about how rising costs are affecting them, and explain any supply chain issues that mean necessary materials have increased in price. Delays and shortages can have a knock-on effect on the timeframe of any project, and traders should be up-front about the challenges they face.

Communication goes both ways. Customers may find themselves being forced to have unexpected essential work done on their home at a time when they can least afford it. Encourage customers to talk about their own concerns around payment, and try to be flexible.

It is always important for a business to demonstrate that it is trustworthy, but never more important than during a time of challenging business conditions. Going the extra mile to demonstrate your competence, honesty and high standards is probably the best way of boosting your customer’s confidence.

Members of Kent County Council’s Trading Standards Checked scheme operate to the highest standards that can be expected of any business in the county, and they can demonstrate this by including the scheme’s logo on their vans, documentation and marketing materials. At a time of diminished consumer confidence, differentiating yourself from the competition and proving your credentials is a powerful way of gaining trust.

One of the inevitable aspects of economic turbulence is a rise in consumer vulnerability. People experiencing financial hardship are often under enormous stress, and this is one of the things that rogue and criminal traders frequently prey upon. You can set yourself apart, and prove yourself an ally to your customers, by being considerate about their personal circumstances.

That could mean making an additional effort to ensure they understand the nature of the work they are agreeing to, taking extra care to ensure they are comfortable with any provisions you have in place around Covid, or simply taking a bit of extra time to make sure they are happy with the work you have carried out. Small acts of patience and kindness can make all the difference to a customer’s life, and will give your reputation a boost in the process.

Kent County Council’s Trading Standards Business Advice Team is on hand to help advise you on ways of boosting confidence in your business.

The service is available as part of your Trading Standards Checked scheme membership, along with a whole range of other resources on the Raising the Standard: Traders for a Safer Kent website.

This resource is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund.