The number of UK households aged 65 and over is predicted to increase by c. 3.5 million by 2033, with over 67% currently owning their properties outright (the south east represents a third of all retirement consumers). After Build has operated in this sector for almost a decade so we really understand the behavioural nuances which define this growing group of new home owners. Here are the main representative characteristics:
A high proportion of retired occupants are elderly women (widows) who are coming to terms with single life. A noticeable consequence of this is that so often they are not accustomed to handling ‘practical’ household issues and will often be heard to say …. “my late husband always looked after these things…”. They feel alone and lonely, relying heavily (where applicable) on family members for moral support.
As the UK’s population gets older and terminal ages are pushing out to the late ‘80s health features prominently. Those daily events we all take for granted become more important and elderly occupants find it increasingly difficult to bend, reach, see, hear, grasp or remember. This impacts on the quality of life and affects mundane domestic activities like opening a window, reaching a high shelf or changing a light bulb. While none of these challenges constitutes a ‘build defect’ they nonetheless become a reason for contacting the customer care team … “I can’t get the window to open … there must be something wrong with it”!
How we ask a question or explain simple procedures can require greater patience than with other occupants. More readily prone to confusion and memory recall, coping with technology in particular presents issues. Hot water and heating programmers, zone controllers and security systems are commonly a source of difficulty.
There can be a reticence to want to try; it’s all too new, it’s in warranty … “ I just want it to work … I shouldn’t have to perform maintenance”. On occasions this results in frustration and distress.
Often a son or daughter will become involved. For all the right reasons it is common place to find that an occupant’s family take a position and become involved in the reporting of a problem, although this doesn’t always help as there can be a fine line between involvement and interference.
Not all are IT literate. From a marketing perspective retirement age starts as early as 55 and at that age, statistically, a consumer may only have lived two thirds of their life. With more than a quarter of a century still to enjoy, this presents a demographic with a very wide age spectrum (55 to 85). At the lower end most occupants have a high degree of tech literacy, whereas at the back end of the range this drops right off … for an 85 year old the World Wide Web still hadn’t been invented when they were 55.
After Build’s response
There are numerous points that need to be addressed and perhaps the most critical of these relates to the individuals we make responsible for taking calls and dealing customer care issues, across this sector. They have to possess certain qualities that must include an abundance of:
Calls are more frequent and generally they take longer to handle. Our service needs to be attentive and feel personal and secure. We use Coordinators with parents of an age that is comparable to this group of occupants (they can relate better with someone who is the same age as their own mother or father).
Where a son or daughter is involved we keep them informed of progress by adding their contact details to our system.
Outbound emails have a photograph of the Coordinator (familiarisation) and from time-to-time they will visit a scheme to meet with the occupants (we go armed with biscuits, tea and coffee).
Those who can’t/won’t use email or our occupant portal to report defects can call us (all inbound calls are recorded).
There is little doubt that the retirement sector is specialist and growing and nothing suggests that this is likely to reverse over the near term. So, we place a particularly high level of importance around service, attitude and performance; without question this is the most challenging and demanding of occupant categories and one in which we specialise.
Units 1 & 2 Woodfield Farm Offices, Isaacs Lane,
West Sussex RH15 8RA