Moving home can be a very stressful time. In addition to being knowledgeable and professional in their field, inspectors also need to be personable, open and honest – because sometimes – it is not just the building issues that you have to deal with!!
I had been working as a quality inspector with a well-known house builder in the UK. Part of my job, and this was always the unpredictable part, was to visit existing customers who had already occupied their property, but had reported complaints which had been escalated.
My role was to investigate the problem and try to resolve any issues and assess and arrange any necessary corrective building works.
I remember one day in particular- I was contacted by our in-house customer services team. They logged a complaint which was received from a customer, who was living within my recently acquired site. She had reported that she was unhappy with the excessive number of snags and defects in her home and the length of time it had taken for rectification works.
The site team on the other hand, had confirmed to me that they were not aware of any outstanding works and tht all o the work had already been completed.
It was a crisp autumn day when I arrived at the development. I had an 8.30am appointment with the site manager and the home owner, to visit the 5 bedroom country house. It came to light during my conversation with the site manager that the customer had moved in 2 years ago- this rang alarm bells!
The woman who greeted me was clearly distressed and indicated that she would no longer speak to the site manager and refused to allow him into the house with me.
Upon entering, the homeowner quickly closed the front door behind me and securely locked it. Suddenly feeling a little vulnerable with the unnerving anticipation of what was to come… I quickly initiated the conversation directing it at the problems that she had reported.
The customer immediately broke down in tears, ran upstairs and locked herself in the bathroom!
I was feeling in many ways, somewhat relieved. However the fact remained that I was locked in the house, whilst the customer was locked in the bathroom. I patiently waited on the landing outside the bathroom door.
10 minutes went past, then 15… 20 minutes. I could only hear sobbing coming from behind the other side of the door and she point-blank refused to open the door, when I politely asked. I still didn’t have details about her issues with the house and it wasn’t looking like she would be coming out anytime soon.
I had to think on my feet and to switch from being an inspector to acting as a coach. I needed to build up rapport with her, in order to coax her out of the bathroom.
We ended up having a chat and a discussion about her snagging list and the reasons for her distress, through the bathroom door!
A chat and my offer to make her a cup of tea, finally persuaded her to open the door, after what turned out to be an hour of toilet negotiations.
During our negotiations, it had materialised that her husband had recently moved out of the house after they recently split up. She was trying to come to terms with this. And it became clear that resolving the house issues, which her husband had previously managed, led her to feeling overwhelmed.
I suggested that she show me the items individually and that we determine the work that was necessary and how we could achieve this as quickly as possible for her.
There were several items on the list that should have been completed, prior to her moving in, but there were other items which were of an acceptable workmanship standard and didn’t require any further work.
One item in particular stands out clearly in my mind: the homeowner indicated to me to lie very flat on the carpet on my back, with my head underneath the radiator heater, I had to look up at the back of the radiator to view small paint flecks, which were hardly visible.
This, I would have to break to her gently, was not an item that was a snag or needed to be done.
However I noticed that across the ceiling, the scrim tape which is used across the plasterboard joints, was visible through the paint. It looked very unsightly and should not have been left in this way – this item wasn’t on her list,
I immediately informed her that although no action could be taken on the back of the radiator, the living room ceiling definitely requires some remedial work, as it covered the full length of the ceiling.
From this point on, what was originally a confrontational meeting, transformed into a positive and calm resolution. We had built up trust and the customer knew that I was being honest and open; we managed to work through all the issues very quickly.
The few remaining items were arranged and closed out within a week by myself and the site team, and the home owner was satisfied and happy with the outcome.
In fact after the work was completed, she even sent a “thank you” letter both to the site manager and myself, for closing the items out so quickly after the visit!
It is always important to follow building standards, tolerances and guidelines, but I believe, from my experience, that it is equally important to be honest and open with your customers.
Image courtesy of Pixabay