How to make the most of the Trusted Trader assessment process

How To Make The Most Of The TT Assessment Process In this article

We’re all taking stock of what we need to be spending, which is why it’s worth traders investing wisely in services that will help keep their business steady and reputable. From the unique opportunity to get advice from a trading standards professional to receiving tailored advice on dealing with complaints and updates to changes in legislation, the Which? Trusted Trader assessment process aims to help you build a better business.

Here we meet Head of Quality Assurance for Which? Trusted Traders, Philip Thomas, who explains why spending a little every month could save you and your business a lot in the long run. Plus, Philip shares his top tips for managing projects and workload.

What does the Which Trusted Traders assessment involve?

An assessment starts with us talking about the business setup with the trader, looking at the business’s trading history, the competencies of the people running the business, checking their insurances, looking at the way they manage contracts from start to finish – basically, everything and anything to ensure compliancy. 

Throughout the assessment process we offer advice on specific things, like cancellation rights, or more general things about having processes in place or dealing with complaints. We try to make our assessments a two-way dialogue. You do not often get a trading standards professional visit you without there being some fear of enforcement! It is a great opportunity for traders to ask questions relating to the way they work and run their business, and to tap into the expertise of people going to see them. 

Our most recent development is that we go out to do work inspections in response to consumer complaints, which is free to consumer and to trader. This helps to reassure consumer or identify issues that we can then work with the trader to go back and put right.

How do you identify common practices a trader might not be doing?

The assessment is incredibly thorough. When we identify common practices that might be missed, the assessors will supply the appropriate actions for the business to ensure they are fully compliant, not only with our scheme but also with trading and consumer law.

This education is continued throughout our Trusted Traders’ endorsement with us, with a yearly re-assessment and contact from dedicated account managers to ensure every endorsed company is abiding by regulations and our high standards.

What makes Which? Trusted Traders better than similar schemes?

We can see from our TrustPilot reviews that businesses find it a really informative and helpful process. Traders recognise it is a tough process and by getting through it, it makes them stand out from the crowd. We do not hide away from the fact that we do ask a lot from our traders – a lot more than other schemes do. 

We are robust about consumer protection legislation, not offending other legislation like tax evasion, setting standards for our Trusted Traders to meet around things like ‘no cold calling’, giving quotes rather than estimates, making sure they are competent and being properly insured.

The assessment is a stringent pass or fail process, yes, but it is also interactive and more than ‘ticking boxes’. We don’t expect businesses to be perfect and fully compliant at the first meeting. We set actions and send advice and guidance and our coordinators are on hand to help traders complete them and ensure they are compliant, then accept them into the scheme. 

What aftercare support is given to Which? Trusted Traders?

Our Trusted Traders have a dedicated account manager, who can help organise calls with our assessors for general or specific advice on things like terms and conditions or complaints handling.

We send a monthly newsletter, to highlight information that might be of any interest, like what the new budget means for traders.

We can also have access to their website while it is in draft mode so we can ensure all the conditions are correct before making it live, which can save on costs – and all of this service is included in the membership price. They also have an annual reassessment, checking insurance, trading history and carry out due diligence to check that there is nothing in the public domain that would cause a reputational risk.

What can Trusted Traders be doing to make the most of their membership?

The account manager’s role is to help the trader make the most of their endorsement. So that might be the way they use the logo, but it might also be encouraging them to apply for ‘Trader of the Month’. There is set criteria, which means that not everyone is eligible for it, so to win this is really prestigious. 

Our ‘Trader of the Year’ has usually been a prior ‘Trader of the Month’, and we give additional logos for these accolades which the traders can utilise, giving them a real point of difference. This, alongside the Helpline offering, makes for a beneficial package for our community of Traders. We have a huge retention rate of around 90%, which shows that the traders in our scheme already really do value the benefits of being a Which? Trusted Trader.

How does Which? Trusted Traders represent value for money?

Which? Trusted Traders doesn’t overpromise on ‘getting leads’, but we do know that our recommended businesses grow and expand and get better contracts. We ensure we are signposting consumers to good quality traders, which is what the traders want – to stand out from the competition. When using Which? Trusted Traders, consumers can rely on the fact that they won’t be ripped off and will get a competent trader who can treat consumers properly and with integrity. 

The advice and tools we offer, via our assessors, are designed to make the communications with consumers much more transparent, which means conflict resolution should be easier having given the consumer the information at the right time. There is no room for ambiguity if everything is written down and agreed. 

The Which? Trusted Traders website lists all of our Trusted Traders, that can be filtered by type and area, together with fully moderated reviews. We have a team that speak with everyone that leaves a review, so consumers can be fully confident in their authenticity. A review won’t be published until it has been moderated and we are happy it is genuine. 

Read our article about dealing with negative reviews

Finally, what are your top three tips on best managing projects and workload?

1. As a trader, you need to be clear on what you can do for the consumer. A really detailed quote that sets out what you are going to do, materials you will use and what you are going to charge, how customers can pay and when. This is invaluable. It may seem like a nuisance, but when we have calls relating to complaints, it is this kind of planning that could have gotten around the issues.

2. Agree with the consumer in writing what needs to happen. Then ensure you get agreement all round, including any additional costs; this will all avoid a lot of complaints.

3. Keep the consumer informed. In particular around any potential delays, including shortage of materials or skilled labour. If you are struggling to get these things, be open and honest with them. The one thing that destroys trust is a lack of communication. Dealing with complaints quickly is cheaper and better for a trader’s reputation, and as a Which? Trusted Trader you can talk about and plan all of the above through with your account manager and on the Helpline.

Visit our ‘Becoming a Which? Trusted Trader’ page to request a call back for more information