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Updated: Oct 18, 2021

We can successfully diagnose a defect in Salford Quays from Burgess Hill or Bangkok …

In April 2020, statistics released by the UK’s Office for National Statistics showed half* of adults in employment were working from home, in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

But this is much more than simply saying people can work from home. It supports the view that many jobs can be performed remotely – whether from home or, some other location.

In my industry, we have been doing this for the last two decades – despite the early naysayers who maintained it would be impossible to diagnose a build defect unless you physically went to see it. So, for 20 years we have been ahead of the curve. But who would have imagined it would take a pandemic to show how right we were?

After Build have built a national business specialising in remote defect diagnosis and resolution, in the new-homes industry. If you are new to this concept, here is a quick run-down.

After Build is the number one outsourced provider of aftercare for new build properties. We provide this service to national and regional house builders, social landlords, PRS schemes, niche, and boutique developers.

The service is bespoke and designed to mirror the client’s aftercare responsibilities, imposed during the first 12-24 months of their 10 year [structural] warranty, as well as any other customer service requirements they have in place. This is a major aspect of one of the trickiest phases of new-home development. It is notoriously difficult to budget for, and for that reason, our pricing is fixed (there is no greater peace of mind).

Has the Corona virus knocked us off course? Not at all. We have continued to provide services to the development community, without missing a beat. We have all experienced companies trying to bring their usual level of service to customers remotely, to limit any social interaction, some with more success than others. This is something we organised our business to do almost a generation before the word ‘COVID’ became a part of the daily vocabulary.

Our defect management service is carried out remotely, usually from our offices in Sussex, but for the second time this year, from home bases around the south east, as our team reacquaint themselves with the ‘work from home’ arrangement we first implemented back in March.

For any remote service, location is irrelevant. Our technology, which has evolved over many years, now uses Microsoft Dynamics 365 – a powerful cloud based solution that means with no more than a broadband connection, our warranty trained Property Coordinators can successfully diagnose and remedy a build defect in Salford Quays whether based in Burgess Hill or Bangkok.

Ever since signing our first client in 2002, After Build has worked tirelessly to convince a community of developers that you can accurately diagnose defects without visiting a single new home and now, more than ever, this is a service we’re finding developers need.

Here is how our process works. As the single point of contact we take all homeowner calls, increasingly via our Occupant Portal (or telephone or Email). We are accustomed to homeowners providing scant, even misleading information when asked what their problem is. And why wouldn’t they? They are not technical, they are busy people, irritated to have found a problem which they just want fixed. While much of what we do is already highly automated (and we continue to find ways of improving service efficiency), there is and never will be a substitute for a trained, knowledgeable individual who can talk to homeowner and contractor alike, understanding the technical nuances of every problem. No system can replace this part of what they do – it is key to our success. They own each problem acting as the conduit between each stage of the remedial process (which is why we call them Coordinators). In addition to a Q and A process, we request photos or videos and rigorously apply the warranty standards until we are confident of the diagnosis.

Our process is proven to work and save contractors and developers money by limiting extraneous and unnecessary costs. There are many companies who routinely send a skilled operative or even a surveyor to inspect each issue on first report from a customer, before making a diagnosis on site. This is not a sustainable way of managing defects, either from the developer’s perspective, the contractor, or the homeowner.

Adding substantially to the cost of resolution, it also pushes out the time taken to effect a remedy and, from a homeowners stand point, they are expected to take time off work to meet with the contractor – something they will have to repeat when it comes to the actual repair. Nobody wins this way. We have known for 20 years that there was a more efficient way to do this and now, in the second national lockdown, it is becoming apparent to the late adopters that a remote service is most definitely the way to go.

After Build are still able to work on site – and we are busier than ever. We offer snagging and handover services for those plots nearing completion and we also have a technical management service available for sites grappling with large job loads.

The UK faces 20-30 years of intensive housing expansion. This means finding more efficient ways to manage process and deliver services. Technology is a large part of the solution, but alone this would fail to move much forward. The real key starts with a mind-shift; understanding that there is a better way of doing something that traditionally has been slow, labour intensive and expensive.

It works because we have studied where in the past it has failed and found ways to overcome short falls in the process. We have taken and applied the best that technology can offer, but in doing so have created a team of highly motivated individuals who can operate both at a technical level with contractors, while applying proven customer service techniques with the homeowner. Without question, it is the combination of people and tech that have proven a winning formula. Remote defect diagnosis has come of age! Source: ONS/49.2%

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