For a long time, the UK housebuilding industry was not known for its quality of customer service, but standards these days are higher than ever and Robert Harding has recently joined Redrow Homes to look after this crucial part of the business in a busy region.
Hi Robert, congratulations on the new role. What led you to a career in customer service and what is it about Redrow that attracted you to working for them?
I came into customer service in a round-about way – it’s not where I started. The more experience you get, the more people look to you to solve problems, which is how I look at customer service – it’s problem solving. I spent 10 years working for the NHBC, managing remedial works for housebuilders and homeowners before joining Redrow. Redrow has a reputation for building quality homes and that’s well founded, but they don’t want to rest on their laurels – they want to improve.
On a daily/weekly basis, what does your job involve?
Every day varies, but I come into the office around 8.10am and may take phone calls in the car on the way in. Some days I leave at 5.30pm but there are times when I work later. For example, if a customer wanted to meet at 5.00pm I might not leave their house until 8.30pm and be home at 9.45pm, but that’s not every day – you have to be flexible. Along with dealing with customers, including going to see homeowners and inspecting properties, a major part of my work is making sure that the team has everything available to them to do their jobs.
How big is your team and what are the different role/responsibilities in it?
There are nine people in the team: three customer care managers whose roles are a combination of office-based, going to see customers and inspecting properties; three co-ordinators in the office taking phone calls and arranging any work required; and three technicians who visit customers and deal with routine maintenance items that are natural in a new home.
Are there things about working in the housebuilding industry that are very different to other sectors?
The key difference is the nature of the purchase – a property is probably the most expensive item people buy and is more than an investment, it’s their home, and so they’re very protective of it. The homes we sell and build feature around 30,000 components by lots of different trades and it’s imperative to make it as good as it possibly can be.
What are your favourite parts of the job, and what are the most challenging?
My favourite thing about the job is the variety and trying to help people so that they can get on with their lives and enjoy living in their new Redrow home. The most challenging thing is ensuring works are done as quickly as possible and that homeowners are kept up to date. We have measures in place to ensure this happens but we are constantly trying to improve.
What are the main qualities you look for in colleagues when recruiting and nurturing your teams?
I like people to have empathy and be able to put themselves in the shoes of the customer. They also need to listen to people and be good at problem solving – people who can think of options B, C or D, if plan A doesn’t work. It’s also important to be a team player, have a sense of humour and be able to relax at the end of the day.
If someone was interested in working in customer service, how might they approach Redrow about it?
Redrow has a strong record for training and development and there are opportunities for both experienced staff and also newcomers to the role. We employ office apprentices, including those who want to work in customer service. Customer service in the housing industry is becoming stronger and with that there will be even more roles created. Details of the roles available can be found here.