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 met, with customers returning an average rating of 7 out of 10. This is a slight increase from an average rating of 6.7 in 2017. 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 this gap has continued to widen over the past three years. The average applicant rating stands at 7.4 (an increase from 7.1 in 2017) while the average agent rating is 6.3 (a rise from 6.1 in 2017).
Figure 7 Extent to which service met expectations
Average ratings differ by type of application, being 7.2 for domestic customers, 6.5 for non-domestic customers and 6.6 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' (609 respondents) gave a perfect rating of 10;
- The 'middle group' (714 respondents) gave a rating of 8 or 9; and
- The 'bottom group' (978 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 staff, with excellent problem-solving skills.
Building on 2016 and 2017 feedback, 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, knowledgeable, informative, professional and approachable.
"Seamless processing of application within recognised target timescales. The accessibility of duty building control officers via phone to clarify queries with buildings standards prior to application submission."
"This project is over a year old now, but I cannot remember any problems. The council officials were helpful and prompt and seemed to have my interests at heart. They were also good at spotting snagging issues and insisting to the builder they be put right."
"My experience with staff on a one to one basis was excellent they were well informed and discussed things in an understandable manner. I did find it difficult to follow what was expected of me. It would have been easier if a step by step leaflet could have been made available."
Reasons for rating 8 or 9 out of 10
Those rating 8 or 9 out of 10 offered similar rationale to those scoring 10 out of 10. The most common reasons given for a rating of 8 or 9 out of 10 are that:
- Generally, a good service, supported by prompt and pragmatic communications and guidance;
- Courteous, knowledgeable and helpful staff;
- Where issues are raised these generally relate to applications and requests taking longer than expected to process, this was often reported a problem in the completion stage. Other concerns were a perceived slowness among local authorities in responding to communications, e.g. email or telephone and the need to navigate guidance that was unsuited to the build context.
"Following submission, the authority was quick in identifying additional information they required. This was delivered by hand and discussed at time of handover. The warrant was then issued within two days. The overall process was complete extremely quickly which meant work progressed without delay and saved me money."
"The service was excellent. There were just a few situations where rules that no basis in reason were being applied. We navigated a successful way through all of these situations though."
"Willing to provide advice on building regulations when required and quick to return calls. Generally efficient and helpful from start to finish."
Issues raised by respondents providing ratings of 1 to 7 out of 10
Respondents raising issues and giving lower ratings are fewer than previous years. The majority of responses in this category were concerned by "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 inconsistencies in the quality of service both within and between local authorities.
"I had to wait over a year for my completion certificate despite numerous emails and phone calls."
"I found that communication with the officers concerned was good, they were very helpful, but as they were so busy, it took quite a while to get replies to e-mails etc,"
"inability to make contact with building standards by phone - duty officer not always available for general queries and only now have direct dial nos for officers become available."
"Length of time from application to approval is not acceptable and is now seriously affecting our industry. A higher level of working to procedures, very picky and being un-flexible from doing anything outwith set procedures as used to happen."
"It's all dependent on the individual you contact some officers have a wealth of local knowledge, appreciation of construction real life as some officers have progressed into building standards from a trades or hands on background. So, expectations are varied as regards the particular officer and background."