8th December 2021

A step in the right direction

Delivering great service requires more than simply joining a Code of Conduct, says Noel Hunter.

By Noel Hunter OBE
Chairman, Consumer Code for Home Builders

There are clear benefits to businesses in joining a Code of Conduct – it’s a great way to signal to your customers that you’re committed to providing a quality service. This is particularly true for developers that are part of the Consumer Code for Home Builders (CCHB), as membership of our Code brings the additional endorsement of CTSI through the Consumer Codes Approval Scheme (CCAS). The same goes for fellow CCAS-approved codes.

But we are acutely aware that being part of a Code of Conduct is merely a first step in the process. The real impact lies in whether you adhere to that Code, and how much effort you put into fully embracing the principles of good service.

Home builders covered by the CCHB are required by the four leading UK warranty providers – NHBC, LABC Warranty, Premier Guarantee and Checkmate – to comply with our Code as a condition of their cover. As a result, 95% of new-build homes in the UK are covered by our Code. But that also means we need to work hard to ensure builders are fully aware of the commitments they have signed up to, and are encouraged to make best use of the Code to enhance the service they provide.

 Promoting the benefits of good customer care

Part of our role as a Code is to promote the benefits of properly embracing compliance. Inevitably there is an element of both carrot and stick required, but the emphasis is definitely on highlighting the benefits.

For example, we’ve produced blogs and videos on how to use the Code in your marketing, to help home builders think about how they can use their commitment to customer service to help attract new customers. This includes having a section on the website devoted to customer support, and ensuring agents and conveyancers are up to speed with Code requirements, and making sure they are providing the right information at the right time.

We’ve also introduced a compliance starter pack to help builders and their agents cover all the key requirements.

Being proactive and complying fully with the Code not only means that builders will be well placed to demonstrate how they are meeting the Code’s criteria when audited, but more importantly, they are more likely to build positive relationships with their customers.

Lessons learned

Helping members avoid falling foul of their Code of Conduct is a win-win for businesses and consumers. Businesses benefit from reduced complaints – and fewer complaint-related costs – while customers benefit from a better service. But understanding the finer points of Code compliance can be crucial.

One of the best ways we have found to help achieve that is by sharing lessons learned, both from independent audits and from customer complaints that come through our Independent Dispute Resolution Scheme. For example, it’s not uncommon for complaints to arise partly due to misunderstandings – one of the important lessons we highlight is documenting when changes are agreed so everyone involved is clear and shares the same understanding of the situation.

 Making Codes of Practice work for everyone

There is much to be gained for both businesses and consumers when Codes of Practice are embraced fully. That’s why we have always had some form of independent inspection to assess compliance built into our Code. And it’s another reason why CTSI’s Code Approval Scheme adds extra weight. Achieving CCAS approval is far from a box-ticking exercise – we, and other approved codes, are submitted to a rigorous annual review process to ensure that our Code is working in practice and we’re providing valuable additional support to consumers.

The work we do to promote best practice and share lessons learned, combined with the robust nature of our Code, is key to securing that ongoing approval. Just as ensuring home builders actively comply and embrace customer service is key to delivering meaningful improvements in the experience home buyers have when purchasing a new-build home. It’s not a quick fix and there’s plenty of ongoing work to be done, but by using the Code as a way to drive up standards, we are seeing positive evidence of improvements in customer service.

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