Customer service (generally) in the UK does not have a great reputation. This is highlighted in research which estimates UK businesses lose £12 billion a year due to poor customer service. And a quarter of adults believe the UK’s general levels of customer help fall well short of the mark.
Customer satisfaction in the UK is at its lowest level since July 2010. Across all sectors the goalposts have shifted, and customers now expect to be involved in a real dialogue with brands – they no longer accept one-way communication, a consequence of organisations using technology to manage customer service. Technology is fantastic at supporting service but is no substitute for speaking to a real live person who has your interests at heart (take note banks, building societies, energy companies, insurance giants etc. etc.).
The New Quality Code published by the NHQB last year makes clear that developers must improve their after sales process to provide a truly supportive customer service. Regardless of the warranty every developer under the Quality Code must provide a responsive, reliable after care service for 2 years from legal completion.
This must include Emergency cover (24 hrs) and be explained to every new homeowner, so they understand how it works and what to expect. In short, here are the headlines:
The service must last 2 years from legal completion
Must include emergency cover (24hrs)
The process must be clearly explained and understandable
Points of contact published
Staff trained to understand how to manage a defect
Problems to be resolved in 30 days
Where this is not possible, homeowners to be kept up to speed on what is happening
It’s all reasonable and not rocket science. That all said, from a developer’s perspective it will need thinking about carefully to ensure that what they offer ticks all the key boxes. Here are some of the issues to consider:
RESOURCE If you plan to provide your own internal resource, no matter how small an operation or few plots you build, you can’t operate with anything less than two full time people (to protect against holidays, sickness, training, and other forms of absenteeism). Those people need to be trained on two levels, a) how to handle homeowners i.e., customer relationship qualities and techniques and b) how to diagnose a defect as not everything that gets reported will be a defect. People must be at the heart of what you do – DO NOT fall into the trap of believing that a piece of software alone is the answer to your challenge. It isn’t and never can be – you must have people who understand what they’re doing managing and overseeing everything.
SYSTEMS How will occupants report their problems to you? Telephone, Email, or some other technology? Is your tech capable of recording and managing the details of every problem? Can it report on overall issues and individual problems as and when required? Is it bespoke to this industry? Can it generate a job instruction for a contractor? An Excel spreadsheet is not a system – at best it’s a list, and it cannot perform any of the necessary functions a system designed for the job will deliver.
PROCESS Is the process clearly defined on an end-to-end basis with contingent strategies for when things go wrong? It must be designed around the timeline defined by the Quality Code and also recognise those contractual issues detailed in your JCT agreement with the contractors.
REPORTING Do you have a means of keeping the homeowner up to speed on progress? For that matter do you have a way to keep the Contractor up to speed? Do you even have a way to provide internal management information?
Don’t imagine that any of this can be achieved with anything less because it simply cannot. We published an earlier article concerning the economics of after care and in that we explain the extent by which a developer needs to budget for this. There is a cost and trying to avoid it with a compromised set-up will achieve nothing more than a compromised level of after care.
So, what are the options? For many small and medium size businesses, outsourcing after care makes so much sense, at so many levels. Economically. Efficiency. Service. Management.
After Build have developed a fixed price after care service over the last 20 years. It meets and satisfies all aspects of the Quality Code. It means that for the developer, they can rest assured that all aspects of after care are being managed and, where necessary, they will receive advice on problem areas. This means that the costly distraction to management time that so often interrupts the flow of ordinary business can be avoided. How many times has a problem been allowed to escalate to a senior officer of the company which results in a director having to handle what began as a minor issue but is now a major pain in the derriere?
Want to know more – speak to Mark Fawcitt (Director of Customer Development) on 07342 037810 (firstname.lastname@example.org).