4. Meeting Expectations
Surveyed customers rated the extent to which they felt the local authority verifier 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 7.5 out of 10. This is a slight increase from an average rating of 7.4 in 2019. The most common (modal) rating was the perfect mark of 10 out of 10 (Figure 7).
As with the scores for overall satisfaction, the difference between agents and direct applicants has narrowed and the extent to which service meets expectation is now slightly higher for agents than direct applicants. The average applicant rating remains at 7.5 (unmoved from 2019) while the average agent rating is 7.6 (an increase from 7.1 in 2019).
Average ratings differ slightly by type of application, being 7.6 for domestic customers, 7.3 for non-domestic customers and 7.5 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’ (846 respondents) gave a perfect rating of 10;
- The ‘middle group’ (868 respondents) gave a rating of 8 or 9; and
- The ‘bottom group’ (1,011 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 despite the Covid-19 disruptions;
- 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 2019, these customers complimented the overall speed of service, including granting the building warrant, and the helpfulness of staff throughout the application process. Many respondents were pleasantly surprised how quickly their applications were dealt with considering the impact of the pandemic. Staff are described as helpful, well informed, informative, professional and approachable.
“As I am a complete novice in applying for a building warrant and planning permission, I had to contact the advisors several times. I found them to be very helpful and patient at explaining the procedures.”
“Communication between myself and the Local authority verifier was excellent. My questions were answered timeously and clearly. I found the people I dealt with to be very professional and kind.”
“From team leader, surveyors, inspectors, and administration staff, I received helpful and friendly advice and a willingness to answer my phone calls when they were working from home during the recent and current difficult times. Much appreciated.”
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, however, many respondents acknowledged that this was due to Covid-19 restrictions and lockdown. A number of respondents thought that information was sometimes unclear and ambiguous regarding the process.
“Given good advice although at times guidance was a bit ambiguous.”
“Good communications with the local authority verifier after initial online application was submitted. The online application is a bit tricky and could be better, but once navigated, the contact from the building control officer was very good and the communications were prompt and concise.”
“Generally good service… sometimes I was waiting a few days for a call back but otherwise good.”
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.
“Timescales were protracted on all applications submitted. Service levels varied, with a lack of consistency between requirements of different Building Control officers.”
“Very slow response from Building Standards. After making enquiries I eventually found out the officer was/had been off work but no one had taken responsibility for my application. After many months it was eventually resolved.”
“Could have sent another reminder to me stating that it could cost me if submission was late so that I would have completed the appropriate documentation in time without having to pay a fee of over £100.”
“Building Standards office assigned a single officer to oversee all our Building Warrant requirements - which has been a significant number during a major site refurbishment. Although we had no issue with the competency of the officer it was clear that their workload was significant, and they were unable to meet reasonable timeframes to respond to warrants submissions and any follow up communications. This issue was exacerbated as the online portal used to submit formal correspondence added up to a 2-week admin delay for any correspondence to be notified to the officer.”
“No one answers the phone, emails go unanswered and inspectors are not available for site inspections in accordance with their own requirements.”