The greatest contributory factor to the poor management of defects is a badly constructed agreement between the developer and contractor. The lack of detail and specificity applied to the ‘Builders Rectification Period’ is a major cause of dispute, brought about for the following typical reasons:
Little effort is required to create a good agreement but often little consideration is given to this aspect. Make it relevant – make it specific. In instances where the ink has long been dry on the page, After Build can still help improve matters. The ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ is a simple document to place a willing contractor on the same page as the developer in terms of performance standards.
Defect management isn’t complicated, however it can be complex. A problem can easily career out of control, so tight management is crucial. Even now, homeowners will tolerate a problem providing it is resolved quickly. When defects take too long to rectify problems escalate and complaints follow. Now it’s not the defect that’s at issue , but the fact that it has taken so long to resolve!
Quality control is an important aspect of customer care. The condition of the property at handover sets the agenda for the next 2 years. If a purchaser’s home has snags when they take occupation, their journey will be a lot rougher for the developer than if it is snag-free. An investment of time and attention at the outset will pay back later on.
It is impossible to manage customer care without a dedicated system. There is a lot of information to record which cannot be accomplished with spreadsheets and Word documents. The developer’s ability to locate a record quickly is critical. ‘Data-Build’ is After Build’s bespoke CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system. It operates on Microsoft Dynamics and is unique to After Build. Arguably the best there is in the industry with separate secure portal access for developers and occupants.
There has to be a process so that issues follow an agreed route to resolution. There are many steps and potential hurdles that can impede progress so well considered procedures keep everything on track.
Establish the ground rules to customer care. Set out your charter to publicise how you operate and what you will do for a customer when they report a problem. Understand the value of a ‘complaints’ policy and a ‘compensation’ policy. The former is your means of treating everyone fairly, applying the same criteria to every complaint to ensure it is heard and responded to in a professional and considerate manner. Many feel that to have a compensation policy will simply cost them money they may otherwise avoid spending when in actual fact, the opposite is more likely to be true (the sums involved in a compensation policy are usually quite small).
Customer care requires a very specific kind of individual; patient, a good listener, someone who can empathise but equally be able to stand firm on occasions in the face of unreasonable demands. Attitude is such a large part of the role of a customer care coordinator but training and good management equally figure highly in achieving overall success. All of After Build’s property coordinators (whatever their background) undertake a three-part training programme, each section culminating in a written exam. This takes up most of the first year of service but the rigour and discipline it achieves places them well to handle defects and manage occupants through the ‘Builder’s Rectification Period’.
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