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16th August, 2021 |

6 minutes

What have the Suez Canal, Brexit and track and trace got in common...

Matt Forrest, executive director of operations

I’ve seen a number of articles recently about how fed up consumers are with companies using Covid as an excuse for bad service.

And I get it.

It’s been months now of disruption to services across the board. And whilst some companies have taken the opportunity to create new product offerings and thrive, some organisations have had a tough time delivering the products and services that their customers expect.

I was thinking about this in the context of some of the services we provide to our customers.

We’ve seen a great deal of disruption since March 2020 and I don’t want to give excuses, but I do want to share some of the things that go on behind the scenes. It's only right that we are honest with customers about what happens as we aim to deliver against our customer promise.

Last year customers logged 165,617 repairs jobs. We made a decision early on that we would only pause maintenance in extreme circumstances. So despite the pandemic, we managed to do all but 797 of these which was an incredible job by the team.

It hasn’t been easy!

Often repairs have taken longer than they normally would, and that’s not just because of the pandemic. I was speaking to Louise, who runs our repairs team, who said this is the busiest, most challenging period she can remember.

But it isn’t as simple as just managing in a pandemic. Home Group, like so many other organisations, is managing multiple challenges;

  1. Material supplies have been affected and we’ve seen shortages of plaster and wood in some regions.
  2. Brexit has had an impact on the availability of skilled tradespeople.
  3. The Evergreen getting stuck in the Suez Canal affected material supplies. We had hundreds of doors on there waiting to be delivered to our maintenance teams!
  4. Track and trace and the ‘ping-demic’ meant that at times up to 10% of our maintenance contractors' teams haven’t been able to work because they’ve been isolating.
  5. We’ve put the safety of our customers and colleagues first. This has meant that there was a period of time when we could only carry out emergency jobs for customers.
  6. Sometimes customers have, understandably, been cautious about having us in their homes. We respect that and have been following all government guidelines around things like PPE.

Not excuses, but the reality of doing our best to deliver hundreds of thousands of repairs jobs each year.

We have to innovate and change to keep the show on the road, and communicate with our customers as we go – they tell us that that’s key.

We’re also listening really hard to what our customers are telling us through our regular satisfaction surveys. We recently launched repairs tracking in our My Home Account product as a direct impact of customers telling us that they want to know where their repair job is at.

We don’t know what the next 12 months will bring, but we’ll be doing everything we can to deliver our customer promise, listen to customers and act on what’s important to them. 

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