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One of the problems we see on a regular basis is the way many small and medium size developers handle snags and defects – when they don’t have their own dedicated resource (or some other solution).

Here’s the scenario …

An occupant calls the developer to report a problem (we don’t even know at this stage whether or not it’s a legitimate problem), nonetheless the Managing Director’s PA happened to pick up the telephone and so now ‘owns’ the problem.

She makes a commitment to get the problem resolved (it’ll only take 10 minutes she thinks). In a moment of heightened efficiency she emails the site team with the details and tasks them with sorting it out. There is no system to record these matters so she takes a while longer and commits the details to paper, putting it safely to one side – just in case she ever needs to refer to it at a later stage. Job done!

Site is running around like a bunch of crazy people, they’re shorthanded and busy as heck with a number of occupations planned for the next 10 days and, they are behind schedule. The email sits at the bottom of an ever growing list of emails awaiting a response. And so it stays there for over a week.

The occupant calls the office again (day 10) frustrated by the lack of action. The call is picked up by an admin person who knows little of the issue but promises to bring it to the attention of the MD’s PA, adding some words of comfort and hope.

The next day the MD’s PA finds the note on her desk and emails the Site Manager once again to chase it up (day 12).

“I need more information than this” says the Site Manager’s response (day 13). Unable to find her scribbled notes the MD’s PA emails right back with a polite (but firm) suggestion that the Site Manager goes around to see the occupant for himself.

(Day 15) Under ever growing pressure, the Site Manager sends one of his guys round to number 10 to find out what all the fuss is about. He turns up, knocks the door a couple of times and, upon no response gets on with the rest of his day – acknowledging with his boss at the end of his shift some 5 hours later, that there was no answer at number 10.

(Day 17) Occupant calls the office for the third time, now making a verbal complaint that more than a fortnight after reporting her problem, nothing has happened. This time she speaks with yet another person (admin, but not the same admin). And again, apologies are made and promises uttered. A message is left on the PA to MDs desk, who, upon finding this starts to feel annoyed that this is taking up far too much of her time and rings the Site Manager.

“Go round to see her, she will be in tomorrow”.

(Day 19) The Site Manager duly calls at number 10. He spends 10 minutes with the occupant. 2 minutes to assess the problem and 8 more minutes being berated for shoddy service. “It will need a plumber – leave it with me, we’ll soon get this sorted, it’s not a big job.”

He contacts the plumber (day 21) …. calls the occupant back to offer some dates (day 22) and then calls the plumber again to confirm appointment details.

(Day 28) The plumber attends number 10, at the time agreed. Alas … he has failed to remember the parts he needs to complete the job – because he relied on a telephone conversation with site in the absence of any form of detailed printed job instruction!!!

Now in free-fall fury, the occupant calls on the site sales and marketing suite (because it is there and is someone new she can refer her problem to – day 29).

Equally frustrated, the Sales Agent contacts the developer’s office and hands the problem back to the person who owned it at the outset – the MD’s PA. She has had enough of it all and formally complains to her boss (day 30).

In response, the MD calls the Site Manager and gives him a dressing down, and then goes on to ask why it is that the build plan has slipped yet further?

(Day 31) The plumber receives a call from the Site Manager who calls him incompetent – somewhat water of a duck’s back.

Realising he has no option but to finish this – the Site Manager calls the occupant once more and over the next day or two establishes a follow-up appointment with the plumber.

(Day 37) The plumber attends to finish the job.

(Day 40) The occupant writes to the MD to make a formal complaint about the poor service and general lack of interest his company has demonstrated over her problem.

This is typical of any number of developer companies. It did only take 10 minutes … but of 7 different people over 25 separate occasions. The cost to the company (based on standard industry pay rates) was £94.65. This may not at first sight appear too great. But, apply industry averages to this and the cost per plot per year becomes £946 (10 defects a year). A developer building 50 plots a year will spend £47,000 handling problems in this way.

Over 50% of cost sits with the Site Manager, and almost 40% split evenly between the MD and his PA. In isolation this is difficult to see and the financial impact unquestionably small. But scale it up over a year and the adverse effect on the bottom line is truly significant.

We see this all day – every day when talking with developers. It is what we call the ‘cost of management distraction’. It’s non-profit, cost centred activity that stops or slows you down from dealing with those matters that make you money. Worse than that, it is inefficient use of your time in as much as the occupant (your customer) doesn’t receive a proficient response and feels undervalued and neglected.

If you would like to look at this in greater detail, we would be happy to talk. Call us on 0845 456 4631.

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