This is your cut out and keep, essential guide to creating a better repairs service. Handily split into client and contractor modules, why not use them together to create the perfect partnership, for you and your customers.
- Procure cheap – Big contractor offering an unsustainable price? Bite their hand off and wait for those big savings to roll in; what could go wrong?
- Use Schedule of Rates to limit the work done. Your call-handling staff will easily understand what repair is needed, purely from the tenant’s description of the problem. NEVER trust the actual trades person to challenge this diagnosis. With their skills, experience and the fact that they can actually see the problem in-situ, they are in a unique position to undermine the service by doing what the tenant needs rather than what you want to pay for.
- Train your call-handlers carefully. Ensure that they pick the lowest priced SoR item that can be tenuously linked to the repair description. Remember, your contractor is not to be trusted, especially as you forced them to underprice their tender in (1).
- If a trades person wants to do more work than your original diagnosis allowed for, make it as difficult as possible for the contractor to do the right work and claim payment for the variation. This is an ideal area on which to focus staff initiative: what barriers can we put in the way to stop us authorising work and paying our contractor? Choose from multiple sign-offs, procurement price restrictions, targets and incentives to reduce variations, QS site inspection. The list is limited only by the imagination of your staff!
- When procuring planned works, make sure that unit cost is still the major decision factor and that several “partners” are used to divide up the work programmes. This will ensure that the materials and appliances vary throughout your housing stock. This variation will make the repair works less monotonous and more enjoyable, whilst keeping the tradespeople on their toes. It will in no way increase later repair costs at all.
- Price the tender as low as you dare. If you’re a big contractor and want to boost market share, why not price it at cost or below? Incentivise your procurement team to win work; that should keep price keen. Don’t worry about those low, low prices at tender, because if you win it, the operations team will be the ones having to deal with it and once the contract starts everyone expects them to….
- Manipulate that schedule of rates! We all know that some SoR codes are, shall we say, more generous than others. Simply employ a team of unscrupulous QS’s to fire plausible schedule variation items at the client for each and every job you do. This will enter you into direct conflict with your client (see 2 above), but, hey, that’s business! If that fails, the ops team can blame procurement for pricing it badly and we can use that handy break clause.
- Train your tradespeople: they are your key staff after all. Start with the valuable art of “sponge-knocking”. Sent to a repair you know will be difficult or loss-making (see 2)? Slip the sponge between door and knocker to make it look like you are trying to gain access. Then silently push a “sorry we missed you” card through the letterbox. Loss avoided! Once this basic module is complete, operatives can advance to level 2a, condemning appliances too costly to repair and level 2b, using the Hoover to make it look like the boiler has been serviced.
- Customers are never far from your thoughts and you need to prove that with your satisfaction survey. Relax, no one ever responds to a mail-out, so get sending now! To ensure the usual 90% target is achieved, simply count non-returns as ‘satisfied’. After all, if they weren’t happy, the miserable sods would soon let you know, wouldn’t they.
- Raise morale in the call centre by playing Excuse Bingo! Wait for a tenant to call in chasing progress on their repair and let the call-handler pick your excuse out of the hat! “The parts are being sent by courier”; “the operative is off ill today”; “we have been caught in traffic”; the operative has got held up on their morning appointment”; “what repair?”; “I’m sorry, you’ll have to ring our repairs chasing hotline” or the classic “our IT is down and I can’t access the system to check on your repair” are all perfectly acceptable. The first call-handler to use all of them in a day shouts “house repaired” to claim their bonus prize.
Of course, I’m being ridiculous aren’t I, no one in their right minds would set up a service like that. So if you work in repairs, you’ll never have encountered any of the above points happening in your service, will you?