Updates & Grumpy Youngsters

I read an interesting piece on the BBC News website earlier today about how younger people tend to complain more about poor customer service. I agree with much of what the piece says although I no longer classify myself as a ‘youngster’ at the grand old age of 30 a lot of it resonates with me. Personally I’m not willing to put up with poor service when I’m paying for a product or service, I won’t go quietly either and will use social media to make a song and dance of my problem until its resolved. This blog is one example of that.

The piece also talked about the view that overall customer satisfaction levels seem to be dropping. I’m not sure if this is the case or not. What I do know is that I and many of my friends are no longer willing to put up with sub standard service when we hand over our hard earned cash for something. The increase in the use of digital technologies also has a part to play in the ability of customers to make a company look stupid very very quickly if its done something wrong. Just look at Twitter if you want to see examples of this.

The good thing is that companies (At least the majority of them) seem to be sitting up and taking notice of this and responding quickly and fairly to customer issues. There is still more work to do and I’m sure they’ll continue to be examples of where it goes badly wrong for companies delving into social media in order to deal with customer complaints, but it’s a start.

I’ve attached the link below if you fancy a quick ten minute read of the full piece

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-30812500

On the home front we are now a month into the new place and things are starting to settle down.

We’ve had a number of decent results from Persimmon over the last week or two which I continue to put down to the fact that the guys on the site are far and away superior to the staff they employ in their head office. The site manager has continued to provide support and maintenance people to repair the snagging items we’ve picked up on in the first few months.

We also had a bit of a result on the broadband which was finally installed last week (A month after moving in and two months after being told we had to do it urgently in order to have it before Christmas). It hasn’t all been plain sailing on this side however…

We have fibre direct to our property which means we have a great big box in the cupboard under the stairs that the router has to be plugged into. Meaning at the moment if we want a wired connection we’d have to drag Ethernet cables out of the cupboard through the house. Whilst this doesn’t particularly bother me it probably would start to annoy the better half who is a bit more house proud then I am when it comes to looks. It would also probably present a bit of a trip hazard having 4 or 5 wires dragged around the house from the cupboard. So alas I’ve been relying on wireless which everyone knows isn’t as strong as wired. For a 100mb connection we are currently getting around 36mb (On a good day) with ping speeds in the low hundreds (Ping is important and is the time it takes for your connection to send and receive data from the exchange – its measured in milliseconds and anything above 100ms is poor). After calling our supplier we’ve found that Persimmon need to ‘cap’ the phone line in our main room so we can plug the router in that room and then wire up all of our equipment that way meaning the speed should improve. Hopefully this should be done this week.

Its not a massive issue but it shows it does pay to check everything in the property.

On the other hand at least we’ve not been as bad off as some of our neighbours on the estate who were expecting broadband to be installed on the same day as we did. It transpires that Persimmon managed to break through some of the ducting that protects the fibre optic cables for our neighbours. Damaging it and meaning they wouldn’t be able to have their connections set up. Not great

Other bits in the house are slowly being ticked off as completed and the house is starting to feel like a proper home. The walls continue to be my nemesis though and after having spent £50 in B&Q on a frankly ridiculous amount of different rawl plugs I’ve now found that the best approach is to go and buy 100mm toggle plugs in order to hand anything on the walls. Don’t make the same mistake I have! If on the other hand you are short of some rawl plugs then let me know and I’ll post you a few hundred out.

We still have a hybrid outdoor swimming pool/swamp type garden out the back of the house due to the continued wet weather which means Persimmon haven’t been able to rotavate it so far, but again this hasn’t been through lack of effort in trying and I have to say I admired the contractors who came and tried anyway even when their equipment started to sink into the ground. So I’m sure they’ll be more to report on that in the next week or two.

Keep reading and commenting!

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Happy *buffering* New *buffering* Year *buffering*

It’s a new year!!!!!!

It’s the same old style of service from Persimmon

Who’d have guessed it?

We have been in our new Persimmon home for about three weeks now. We’ve had plenty of time to get used to it and plenty of time to find a few snagging problems that now need resolving. Persimmon’s construction team have been offsite for most of Christmas and this week has been their first week back so I’m going easy on pestering those guys too much. However its good to see that first day back on site they are arranging for someone to come and check the outstanding items that need to be resolved.

In the meantime I’ve had the continued pleasure* of trying to deal with Persimmon’s ‘head office’.

Now Persimmons head office has got a pretty dire reputation with me anyway. The sort of reputation that means it has to arrange for paid likes on its social media pages (Read my previous post on Persimmons dodgy social media strategy for the full breakdown). As with most large companies a head office department is just a means of having an address somewhere to send all the complaints they generate about the crap service they provide. In this case my current gripe with the head office is their inability to pick up those things that sit on your desk and ring or alternatively pick one up, use the dialler on it and call our broadband supplier to tell them you’ve done the work you were supposed to have done back in November…

Yes dear reader its your weekly update on The Pastures Broadband debacle.

If you read the title of this blog again you’ll notice my wonderfully witty use of buffering throughout. Which is all I’ve been able to see when having to rely on my mobile phone signal since we moved in on the 19th December in order to connect to the outside world. Its amazing how much we depend on the internet now to carry out our daily lives. For one thing the kids have had to interact with each other (Which is never a good idea) and me and Kate have had to watch terrestrial television for three weeks (Enough to drive any sane person potty). On top of this I do actually have a day job as an IT Consultant (I don’t just write angry blogs you see) which requires a very decent broadband connection both at home and in the office. Regular readers will know we had to jump through a few hoops generated by Persimmon in order to ensure we’d move in with working broadband on our exchange date. So we did all the stuff, signed the contract, paid our installation fee and then?

Waited, and waited.

An engineer got sent up from London and left dejected and disappointed (A typical response from someone visiting a Persimmon site I’m guessing). A bunch of the work the engineer needed to have been done by Persimmon wasn’t done (No surprises there) so he wasn’t able to connect us. Persimmon gave us a magical date of Christmas Eve to have broadband working (A date later confirmed by the broadband supplier as being based on nothing other than a date Persimmon just decided to pluck from thin air) and since then the broadband supplier has said that they won’t waste anymore of their engineers time in sending them up to connect us and others on the estate without Persimmon contacting them and telling them they’ve done the work. At which point the broadband supplier will then send a project manager to actually check the work has been done before they then get their engineers to come and connect us. There are a few failings with this process

  • Wouldn’t it annoy you if one of your suppliers distrusted your work so much that they ensured they sent their own people to check your work before they did their part of the deal? What sort of company would have such a bad reputation for keeping its promises that it required someone to fact check them first….
  • In order for the broadband supplier to kick start their side of the work, they are dependent on Persimmon using the ringing thing on their desks in ‘head office’ to call the broadband supplier. The chances of which are as high as Danny Dyer’s chances of being awarded an Oscar for best actor (This is what watching terrestrial TV has done to me…lasting damage)
  • Persimmon giving out made up dates means potentially there are a bunch of customers on our estate sitting in their homes assuming their broadband will be connected soon. If you know any of these people, best point them in the direction of this blog. If you are a fellow neighbour on the estate and are reading this. Hate to let you down, but you won’t be getting broadband anytime soon. On the plus side ITV have a great show about dodgy builders on this Wednesday – we might see our houses on there!

Anyway I jest a little. The point I’m making is that there are many difficult things that need to be done when building a house. Checking its clear of power lines before building up is one. Giving customers realistic estimates is evidently another one. Getting the logistics right so you don’t run out of bricks is also tough. Paying your builders on site for the hours they did in the run up to Christmas BEFORE Christmas because of your senior managements incompetence in giving out silly dates for completion to staff is clearly another.

But picking up the telephone to ring one of your suppliers to tell them you’ve done the work that you should have done months ago so they can connect customers you’ve buggered about and lied to about dates is obviously beyond the abilities of head office.

So there you have it readers. As a nation we can help other countries land a spaceship on a comet, discover and map the human DNA strand, deliver 4G to cities across the UK, build a new aircraft carrier, open up the Shard, fill the Tower of London with poppies and throw the best fireworks party at New Year, but when it comes to picking up the phone and dialling a few numbers to tell one of your suppliers they can come and do some work?

Persimmon failed…

Again

PS – I’m going to start a petition to give Persimmons ‘head office’ a lobotomy. My hope is that this will increase the IQ of this department significantly, and lower the blood pressure of its many annoyed customers greatly, thereby saving the NHS millions of pounds a year.

*change pleasure for teeth pulling pain and you get the picture

You want to see your house? What a ridiculous request to make!

3 days out from legal completion and my concern that Persimmon seem to be desperately rushing to finish/hide any problems in our property seems to be pretty close to the truth. The reason I say this is that we were supposed to be able to inspect the house on Monday (Prior to legal completion on Friday) in order to check the outstanding issues/any other issues have been resolved.

The annoying thing about all of this is just how broken the communication seems to be between the site manager and the senior management of Persimmon. Each time we’ve had an issue with the build we’ve tried to resolve it with the guys on the ground at the build site as it only seems fair to give them an opportunity to put it right. Each time they’ve failed in a spectacular way to do this. This results in us having to speak to their bosses to get stuff resolved. Making them look incompetent and probably driving a further wedge between their guys on the ground and their senior management. I know from my own job that if I had a customer continually going above me to my boss that it would piss me off. Initially I’d be annoyed at the customer for not trusting my judgement, but then I’d question why the customer feels they need to do this. Am I not doing my job right? Don’t they trust what I’m telling them? Maybe a period of reflection is needed for Persimmons staff at the site??

So for the last week we’ve been told by the site manager that the earliest we can view the property would be Thursday (That’s less than 24 hours before completion) and all week I’ve been telling them that this isn’t acceptable because there is no way that gives any of us contingency to resolve anything that we find wrong (Because I know we will find things wrong). This has gone back and forth like this for a while. I asked what the reasons for this were and was told that they were arranging access to the front of the property. This in itself seems completely contradictory as access to the front of the property wouldn’t stop us, you know, using the backdoor to get into the house would it? That and the fact I’ve popped round a few times to show the kids the front of the house and it really didn’t look like the lack of paving stones would have stopped me in a pair of grubby boots from getting to the front door.

So yesterday I went to the site managers boss to ask if we could have access before Thursday. Unsurprisingly he said after viewing the property for himself he could see no reason why we couldn’t go and see the house before Thursday…

Its this sort of miscommunication and stepping on each others toes that we’ve had to deal with the entire 12 months we’ve been dealing with Persimmon. One person says something, another one contradicts them and the customer stuck in the middle of all of it wonders what the hell the builder is doing and why they can’t just front up on what the actual issues are.

So today we get to view the house. I’ll report back here tomorrow on the state of it.

On a side note I went to see my eldest sons school play yesterday and afterwards was talking to the secretary of the school. We got onto houses for some reason and when I mentioned we were moving she asked whether it was Persimmon homes building it. When I said yes she gave the typical response of a Persimmon customer ‘oh no, you need to be careful with them, we have a Persimmon home and had countless problems with it after moving in’…

I rest my case

House Building 101?

A few years ago me and a group of 9 other friends did a charity house build in Romania (Cluj to be precise). Via our employer we (And 8 other teams) had to raise £7800 in 8 weeks to buy materials to fly out to Romania to build 4 houses for people who were living in poverty housing. Our team managed to pull this off and so went out to Romania to put together a new set of homes for these families.

It was a thought provoking experience. However much we complain in this country (Including me) about how bad we have it we really don’t need to look too far across the pond in Europe to see others who have it so much worse. As a team we managed to knock up 4, 2 bedroom flats built into a modular detached building (With 2 floors) in five days. Better yet because we were so quick we managed to knock up two extra semi detached 2 floor homes. All were made with wood framework, concrete base and foundations and sloping tiled roof. All rooms were plastered, electrics installed, full plumbing and a bunch of us clubbed together to contribute to some furnishings and gifts. On the day we handed over the keys to the four families there wasn’t a dry set of eyes on the building site.

I use this example firstly to show that my own situation whilst pants isn’t anywhere near as bad as plenty of others. But I also use it to show that with a motivated and dedicated team you can deliver something to time and budget without needing to let down the customer.

So I have a genuine question for Persimmon Homes.

How long does it take to build a home?

If you’ll have seen my previous blog you’ll understand that I mentioned I’m not particularly great at DIY. Which was something of a white lie. See I can plaster, can knock together a framework using wood pretty well, can do some basic plumbing and I’m a pretty dab hand at mixing cement. Skills I picked up over 5 days in Romania from qualified builders. I’m not for one minute saying I could go and knock together a block of flats tomorrow. But I am saying I have a small understanding of time elapsed to put together something resembling a home.

The first thing is to be very clear on three things:-

Budget, Materials and Resources

There is absolutely no point in starting a build of any of the above are missing. Only fools would start a major construction project without the right materials, money or people to do the work required. I mean no one would be this silly would they? Eh Persimmon? You wouldn’t get halfway through a site build and then find you’ve run out of bricks would you Persimmon? Or admit to customers that the reason for your delays this month are due to not having enough qualified builders of acceptable quality would you?

Anyway I digress.

You also need a decent project manager. Someone who understands the relationship between different bits of construction and how to work logistics into the plan. Which means making sure that when he has a construction team on site that they have materials to do something with, and also that these materials continue to flow into the estate as the build progresses.

One of the key skills of a project manager is being able to provide reliable and realistic estimates to their stakeholders and customers. Having done a bit of this myself I know there is nothing that pisses off people more than over promising and under delivering on dates. Which is why its always best to err on the side of caution and assume worst case. Again no decent project manager would keep releasing dates to customers for completion that are so ridiculously inaccurate as to be completely worthless. That just wouldn’t be good business, or a good customer experience for the home buyer. No one would do that, would they Persimmon?…

So now you have the budget, materials, staff and a decent project manager.

You need to prepare the ground. Ideally you’d do this by referencing existing plans for the site to ensure you don’t cut through a power cable and knock out power to the entire village (Again – no one would be this silly, would they Persimmon?, I mean you’d have to fork out some form of compensation to people for loss of power and potential damage to their homes, like food wasted in freezers?). You’d also do what I like to call ‘the common sense check’ of the site. i.e. if there are any structures, trees, hedges or cows on the site you’d ideally want to move them before spades go in the ground so that halfway through a build you don’t suddenly realise that you’ve got to move a power cable supplying the entire village from the existing above ground power cables to an underground set of cables.

Once you’ve done these basic things you can then start the actual build work. Its at this point your estimates start to firm up into realistic dates. Slippages do happen, suppliers will let the supply chain down, people will report in sick, accidents may well happen. One or two days delay at the start can translate into one or two weeks later once the full impact is realised. I know this, because I’ve had it happen on my own projects. Which is why any decent project manager will build in contingency to their plans. If you estimate a job will take 2 months then you probably want to add on 1-2 weeks contingency for delays or unexpected events. This is just good business practice.

I’ll leave you to work out how Persimmon seem to go about project management of their building sites. You don’t need to look very far on the internet to see how this impacts their customers…

A crucial part of a build is ensuring that plans are followed to the letter. The risks of not doing this are that you end up building something incorrectly, which may not be signed off as completed or could lead to costly repairs later. Your customer may decide that the build quality is so poor that they refuse to exchange, causing further delays and additional unexpected costs. What you really don’t need at this point is someone deciding for example to install a loft hatch in a bathroom (Over a bath and partway over an internal wall) instead of in a landing hall, like the house plan states… Again I’ll leave you to work out how Persimmon seem to approach build plans and quality workmanship…

Some readers may think I’m doing this to be glib. Part of me probably is, but a large part of me is doing this to show that simply expecting a customer to hand over a massive deposit and go away until you’ve build something isn’t and never has been acceptable. One last time I’ll let you work out what sort of approach Persimmon takes to customer experience…

An Update on our Persimmon Home Purchase

Firstly a quick thank you to everyone who has so far contacted me or commented on this blog. Its clear that we are not alone in our horror story of dealing with Persimmon. At the last count I had 89 different families who have contacted me either expressing solidarity with our problems or sharing their own issues and wanting to get involved. I’ve more to come on that soon but in the meantime thank you, your messages really have been a help over the last few weeks.

The latest with our own situation is that the outstanding issues with our new house (Loft hatch over a partition wall and situated over a bath, completion date delayed by 6 months and now 2 days after our rental agreement ends, garage door not installed etc. etc.) is that at least some of these issues have now been out right (Allegedly – as we haven’t actually seen these for ourselves). The issue of the 6 month delay however is still rumbling on.

I received a response to a follow up I sent Mr Fuller (The east of England MD for Persimmon homes) in which he apologized and offered us a compensation payment off our final bill. I appreciated what has been the first genuine apology and offer of compensation for our situation. Unfortunately (And this really isn’t me being greedy here) the offer they have made is far below the amount of stress, worry and actual costs we have incurred through no fault of our own this year. So I’ve explained this to Mr Fuller and I now look forward to a further reply.

I’m not building up my hopes with this at all but a genuine offer of compensation that covers us for this year would go some way to making good the repeated broken promises, failed deliveries, ineptitude and just plain bad customer service we have had to suffer this year.

I’ve even asked our local MP to now get involved in order to ask Persimmon about their business practices. I don’t expect I’ll hear much off the back of this discussion but it does at least mean Persimmon and their practices are in a wider public forum because of it.

In other news it seems Persimmon have continued to ignore numerous issues from both new and existing customers on their social media pages. Twitter is awash with examples of repeated failures to engage with customers who feel they have been let down or suffered loss due to poorly built properties. On Facebook (Where the ability to closely monitor and close down negative comments on their page is more strictly enforced) there are still comments that pop up on their posts asking why repairs remain outstanding months after families have moved into properties.

Looking back on our own experience this year if I knew what I now know about what the buying experience would be like from Persimmon I feel safe in saying that we would not have made this house purchase from them. New build properties are notoriously acknowledged as encountering delays and issues when families move in, but this experience would have felt much more positive for us if only Persimmon had kept us engaged and not made promises they clearly knew they could not meet. On top of this an inability to plan ahead or predict demand for new homes (When other house builders seem to have weathered the storm so much better) gives me no confidence that the long term strategy of Persimmon focuses on anything other than their bottom line profits. As I said in a previous post. I have no issue with a company making money. What I do have issue with is where the need to make money causes untold damage, stress and worry to customers. Hindsight however is a wonderful thing!

I don’t believe for a second that a house purchase from any of the other big home builders would have gone off without one hitch. However I do feel that other home builders seem better able to acknowledge quality and care for their customers.

So what one piece of advice would I give to anyone looking at a Persimmon home purchase?

Tread carefully and seriously consider the amount of bad feedback they have floating around on the www. You really do not need to look far to find it and this blog is just one piece of a far wider jigsaw of let down, annoyed and upset customers. Whilst you may be sweet talked by a sales team who do seem to work bloody hard at their jobs, you will be repeatedly failed and let down once you’ve signed on the dotted line with them. In particular if you are in the East Of England I’d avoid the Pastures development in Brundall like the plague until all of the homes are built (They have plenty left they haven’t been able to shift – even with large discounts attached to them), which should give you a pretty good indication of how good a neighbor they have been to the community of Brundall!

We now stand at 18 days out from the alleged completion date.

My confidence couldn’t be any lower in Persimmon right now.