4. Meeting Expectations
Surveyed customers rated the extent to which they felt the local authority building standards service had met their expectations, on a scale from 1 ‘not at all’ to 10 ‘completely’.
On the whole, expectations appear to have been reasonably well met, with customers returning an average rating of 7.4 out of 10. This is an increase from an average rating of 7.0 in 2018. The most common (modal) rating was the perfect mark of 10 out of 10 (Figure 7).
As with the scores for overall satisfaction, direct applicants are more satisfied than agents and the difference between the two has narrowed since last year. The average applicant rating stands at 7.5 (a slight increase from 7.4 in 2018) while the average agent rating is 7.1 (an increase from 6.3 in 2018).
Figure 7 Extent to which service met expectations
Average ratings differ slightly by type of application, being 7.5 for domestic customers, 7.4 for non-domestic customers and 7.2 for mixed (domestic and non-domestic) customers.
Respondents were asked to provide a reason for their rating in response to this question. Analysis involved ordering all responses from highest to lowest score, then dividing them into approximate thirds based on the number of respondents:
- The ‘top group’ (809 respondents) gave a perfect rating of 10;
- The ‘middle group’ (886 respondents) gave a rating of 8 or 9; and
- The ‘bottom group’ (1,035 respondents) gave a rating between 1 and 7.
Reasons for a rating 10 out of 10
The most common reasons for customers providing a rating of 10 out of 10 include:
- Fast, efficient, smooth, seamless and helpful service;
- Easy, timeous and clear process;
- Excellent and prompt communications;
- Professional and fair approach taken by first-class, knowledgeable and approachable staff, with excellent problem-solving.
As was the case in 2018, these customers complimented the overall speed of service, including granting the building warrant, and the helpfulness of staff throughout the application process. Staff are described as helpful, well informed, informative, professional and approachable.
“Always available to discuss matters - clear guidance - helpful service - easy to deal with in conversation or online.”
“All conditions for the warrant were explained pre-build. All inspections required to secure the warrant were explained, with no long delays waiting on inspections during the build. It all went to plan.”
“The building standards officer was very empathetic to our particular needs (self-build, by myself). He always had a positive attitude towards any problem we encountered and made the whole Building Control process very smooth.”
Reasons for rating 8 or 9 out of 10
Most common reasons given for a rating of 8 or 9 out of 10:
- Generally, a good, efficient service, supported by prompt and pragmatic communications and guidance;
- Courteous, knowledgeable and helpful staff;
Negative points generally related to applications and requests taking longer than expected to process (often reported at completion stage) as well as a perceived slowness among local authorities in responding to communications, e.g. email or telephone.
“As a professional architect, I go through a lot of building warrant applications and deal with a lot of building standards officers. Honestly, [they] tend to go out of their way to get things done, often chasing up for additional information, and not being afraid to get in touch via phone/email instead of just formally responding. They tend to reply promptly to emails and have no issue with sitting and discussing solutions that may not be the norm.”
“The process was reasonably straightforward. My only concern was the length of time it took to get the building warrant approved.”
“At first I was given incorrect information….Once given the correct information, the service was very good.”
“Everything went according to plan without undue delay. The person dealing with it visited the site and had open and reasonable discussions with the builder. I felt everything was being dealt with well.”
Issues raised by respondents providing ratings of 1 to 7 out of 10
The issues raised by respondents giving comparatively lower ratings are similar to previous years. These include “lengthy” timescales taken by local authorities to respond to customer requests and process applications; difficulties faced in being able to contact the building standards service; and apparent inconsistencies in the quality of service both within and between local authorities.
“It was very difficult to reach the building officer. The person assigned to our case changed on so many occasions and even when we did manage to contact [them] they were not very helpful. Then in the end, restrictions that were enforced on our build were let go (not enforced) with subsequent builds.”
“The local authority were unable to administer building standards correctly and in a timely fashion … I was asked to change items on the warrant drawings that hadn't been picked up at the warrant stage by the officers which subsequently meant I had to pay my architect for the changes. I had already paid the local authority to check the drawings once.”
“It’s difficult to gain advice and even speak to an officer nowadays. Some are more helpful and more efficient than others. The service is not consistent.”
“Staff are generally very helpful, but continuing cut-backs and staff shortages lead to long delays in response.”
“It has taken 3 years to obtain plans approval since submission, which is entirely down to the [local authortity] department's inability to manage the process and documentation.”