The National House Building Council’s (NHBC) Annual Review 2012/13 announced survey results showing of 29,330 new home buyer’s, 91% are ‘very’ or ‘fairly satisfied’ with the quality of their new home and the same number would recommend their house builder to a friend. The NHBC claim “with another year-on-year increase, these levels of customer satisfaction still match or exceed those in almost any other industry or sector and are testament to the industry’s commitment to deliver quality new homes that meet the expectations of their homebuyers.”
However, the “increase” is just 1% more than the HBF 2013 survey results from a sample size of just 20,313. The HBF survey represents barely a fifth of the total number (109,730) of privately sold new homes built in the survey year, which is hardly representative.
The NHBC claim to send out over 100,000 questionnaires annually with a response rate was between 50 and 75%. They have now also launched a new online platform enabling participating house builders to easily review their feedback in much more detail than before and they can also compare their customer satisfaction scores with those of their competitors. The platform also gives builders opportunity to add a number of bespoke questions to the surveys, allowing them to change the questionnaire to meet their own specific requirements.
Over a quarter of homes completed by UK house builders now have homeowner’s feedback reviewed by the builder via an online customer satisfaction report, according to the figures released by the (NHBC). The online reporting system enables house builders to monitor their scores on a monthly basis, with e-mail alerts for any poor satisfaction scores and the ability to identify individual customer problems. The NHBC say the number of housebuilders using their customer satisfaction reports and online platform has doubled in the last 12 months.
Barratt, Persimmon and Taylor Wimpey are among the 21 builders using the new online system. The NHBC say that “between October 2012 and September 2013, builders reviewed feedback from over 28,000 homeowners – an increase of more than 17,000 from the previous year.”
Mike Quinton, chief executive of NHBC, said: “The big increase in builders using our customer satisfaction surveys is a clear sign of how seriously the industry takes the views of new homeowners. Customer feedback is one of the best ways to ensure builders use their time and resources effectively and helps to drive up standards across the board. Builders are using our unrivalled system to readily access their homeowner’s feedback, drill down into results on a site-to-site basis and benchmark themselves against their rivals.”
Persimmon for example, have had eight years of “feedback” via the HBF Customer Satisfaction Survey and have never attained the top 5 star rating. If, as Mr Quinton appears to suggest, feedback “drives up standards across the board” it would appear to have not been very effective at Persimmon who were even rated only 3 star as recently as 2011! In addition, last year the NHBC paid out a staggering £73million in claims – up 4% on the previous year, to fix new home defects, hardly an indication of improving standards!
The HBF Customer Satisfaction Survey was first introduced in 2006, in response to a recommendation 32 in the Barker Review in 2004. The NHBC carries out the homeowner surveys and analyses the data on behalf of the HBF and registered house builders, sending out a total of over 100,000 satisfaction surveys a year, at eight weeks and nine months after legal completion. The nine-month survey results are never made public. The NHBC said: “the results are shared with the appropriate builder and not published externally, or shared with organisations such as HBF. This survey shows broadly similar results.”
Only two questions from the HBF eight-week survey can be related to individual house builders. A spokesman for the HBF confirmed: “publishing more detailed company results would not have had any more impact on raising customer satisfaction among new home buyers. But it would most certainly have provided food for those who are prejudiced against the industry and simply seek to criticise.” This statement would appear to indicate that specific results could be sensitive or detrimental to particular house builders.
As they say, “the devil is in the detail.” So for as long as there is secrecy and non-disclosure of the detailed results of both surveys, potential new home buyers should take all claims of alleged rising standards and improving quality of UK new homes with a pinch of salt. How long will the house building industry continue to report an illusion of improving quality based on answers to bespoke questions, from a small proportion of new home owners rather than publishing the full ‘warts-and-all’ picture?
The NHBC should publish a builder league table, based on the number of claims or complaints per 1000 new homes each builder constructs. The industry should make public the results to every question in both surveys for each house builder. Until it does, UK new home buyers should quite rightly, question what horrors the industry is trying to hide?