Olivia joined After Build in October of this year. She’s a recent graduate of Durham university and has worked on a diverse range of volunteering projects around South Asia before joining After Build’s site services team. Talk about being thrown in at the deep end… This year, After Build delivered more pre-occupation surveys than we ever have done before and there’s no end in sight.
We’ve always waxed lyrical about the value of a snag free plot on completion day. Why is it important? Because it’s of critical importance to a customer that when they receive the keys, it doesn’t come with a handful of problems built in. We’ve always said, you wouldn’t drive a brand-new car off the lot if you could spot five or ten scuffs, scrapes and a defective clutch. So why are we asking home buyers to accept anything less.
Put simply, if a customer is faced with snags on day one, they’re far more likely to become dissatisfied in the ensuing two-year warranty period. More importantly, their ‘out-of-the-gate’ responses to any customer satisfaction surveys will be worse than if they’d moved into a clean plot.
And so this year the demand for our pre-occupation surveys and de-snag has taken off, mainly at South London based sites. And in quite a big way too.
Ashley Wilson, who’s managing the delivery of these services spoke to me about the massive ramp up in workload:
“I reckon I’ve been into over 1000 plots this year already.” He tells me cheerfully from his car.
During lockdown, we’ve continued to provide our services which has allowed housebuilders to continue the smooth sales process of their homes. Our team drive to site where they’re able to, to minimise social distancing.
“Some of the sites have a one-way system in place, and of course everyone’s wearing masks. Everyone’s aware of distancing rules but it’s not that hard.”
Anyone familiar with live construction sites will know that health and safety is always a high priority. It’s a big part of the culture and so the Covid guidelines are just an extension of that process.
Ashley who used work as a football coach for Brighton & Hove Albion tells me that’s not as glamorous as it sounds. He came to work for After Build as a co-ordinator but says that he much prefers his time on site because of the stricter working conditions but also because he likes structuring his own time to suit the client’s needs. But he says, he’d like to see a little less of the Blackwall tunnel!
Ashley’s training Olivia and our other new recruits to begin taking over delivery of some of our long established site-service clients. Olivia will likely be working with some of our Home Counties developers where, because of the lower volume, we’re able to provide a real point of connection with the clients by offering a home demonstration too. The homes and their buyers are of a significantly different profile to the booming London market and so, while the core service remains the same, Olivia is learning to provide a customer service style that fits the purchasers and the plots she’s handing over.
In another part of London, our Site Services and Estates Manager Ellie Wickens is working with a large developer, who through no fault of their own, have lost the ability to use their original contractor. This isn’t the first time we’ve come across a situation like this and, if for no other reason than the 2020 pandemic, we strongly suspect we’ll see more of this occurrence in the future.
When a new site loses its original contractor, things can get out of hand pretty quickly, which was the case on Ellie’s site. Because the jobs begin to back up fast, by the time you’ve found alternative resource to manage the day to day, you’re already in the weeds. So we’ve parachuted in our version of the Royal Marines.
Ellie is known for being incredibly sociable, but also a no-nonsense Pitbull on site. She is our smoking gun when it comes to organising a lot of works in a short space of time. She’s also one of After Build’s veterans as our longest serving member of staff – possibly holding out for a golden clock!
We’ve dealt with a lot of backlogs over the years and although we’ve got a couple of strategies depending on the situation, it’s always our experience that having a presence on site to manage the problem makes the process work more smoothly and complete faster. Someone to build a rapport with the operative teams, to hand out and check off job sheets and to be a first point of contact during any dispute that might arise.
Ellie, who’s spent the day at a Surrey development built for the over 55s gave me the first free five minutes she has had all week! When you pick up the phone to her she really could be anywhere.
A lot of what she’s doing now can be and often has to be done remotely because of coronavirus. At the site in crisis, Ellie and the After Build team have helped to source a site manager and alternative contractors to put right the problems we’ve been tasked with managing. The challenge, which currently represents about 500 jobs, is being managed between Ellie and the delivery team who are working together for the customers.
Ellie says it’s just a matter of working through the contact, rounding everything up and solving one problem at a time. “You just have to get on and get the job done.” She explains, voluble as ever.
In her capacity as our Estates Manager, Ellie also runs the landscaping and facilities over at Frith Park which is a 2019 completed Reside Group site. Having a long-term relationship with home buyers is something Ellie and her team are accustomed to.
The team will be busier than ever on the run up to Christmas and they have one eye on a build up of home demonstrations that need to be delivered in lieu of being able to do them during the first lockdown.
This has been a red letter year for the After Build’s site services team and we’re looking forward to pushing this delivery out into 2021 and beyond.
If you want to get some first-hand references of value added to business by employing After Build’s site services team then you can contact Mark Fawcitt for more information.