THE MAGAZINE FOR PROFESSIONALS

Where Customers Are Finding Contractors

by inPAINT

When it comes to finding and selecting a contractor, today’s consumers have more places to turn for information and opinions than ever before.

With the rising popularity and growing number of online service sites and apps, it’s natural to assume that digital-based sources would lead the charge. But you’d be wrong.

THE POWER OF THE PERSONAL REFERRAL

For the past nine years, Fred Miller of Consumer Specialists, has been keeping a close eye on consumer research habits, especially as they relate to finding and choosing a contractor. His most recent study examines how consumer efforts to find a contractor have evolved in that same time period.

“Without a doubt, referrals from friends and family remain the primary way homeowners find a contractor,” says Miller. In fact, when asked how they would go about finding a contractor for a project, 46% of survey respondents indicated that they would turn to friends and family. Online sources came in second but at a rather distant 27%. However, what’s interesting to note is that while ‘friends and family’ holds the lead, it is down 4 percentage points from the 2006 survey, whereas online sources jumped an impressive 16 percentage points in the same time period. Online handily displaced the Yellow Pages from the #2 position, which fell 13 points (19% in 2006 and 6% in 2015).

Respondents also indicated that they relied on referrals for hiring their last contractor at a rate of 41%, more than double the rate of the next method (based on previous experience, 19%).

CONSIDER THE SOURCE

In Miller’s study, consumers rated how valuable they find different sources in finding a contractor. Using a scale of 1 (not at all valuable) to 10 (extremely valuable), previous experience won out over referrals. “When asked to consider the value of different sources, consumers rated previous personal experience slightly more valuable than referrals from friends and family,” explains Miller. “And while online services showed sharp growth in top-of-mind consideration, they ranked near the bottom in terms of being a valuable source.”

BEYOND THE TALK

A recent survey by BuildZoom.com, a contractor-customer matchmaking web site, confirms Consumer Specialists’ findings. According to BuildZoom’s lead data analyst Jack Cookson, “Word of mouth is what consumers rely on to find a contractor. However,” he adds, “they’re not as convinced by the opinions of people they don’t know. They trust a neighbor or a friend, but vague online reviews by strangers aren’t as impactful. Beyond the trusted opinion, they’re looking for concrete evidence of competence.”

For many, that competence is demonstrated through an active license.

“In recent years, there’s been a big shift by local governments to have open data,” says Cookson. “BuildZoom has taken advantage of that access to build the world’s largest database of licensing and permitting information. On our site, we list all currently licensed contractors and our surveys illustrate that, after word of mouth, licensing status is what matters most in choosing a contractor.”

THE REWARDS OF RESPONSIVENESS

In a separate survey conducted earlier this year, BuildZoom found that once a potential customer has identified a potential pro for a project, responsiveness has the biggest impact on selection.

Cookson says, “After the initial contact in which a contractor raises their hand to express an interest, the time it takes to respond to the customer’s next query is very important. People want to know that the person they are entrusting their home and money to is going to be accessible and responsive.”

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