Tuesday, February 10, 2009

I've got a sweat on

Even in February, when the sun shines on the shack, boy it gets warm.
Our oak flooring is nearly done as you can see from this picture - c/o Pro-fit, a local company.
Using a local?! I hear your shriek incredulously.
It's ok, he's a German expat.

Sorry seems to be the hardest word

Anyone who has built a house in the UK will know that the US style of 'customer-focused' service has not yet arrived / been imposed on the world of building and its close relations. At least not here. The client is in general the one apologising for stuff in they builder's way, not enough biscuits, the architect's drawing's lack of clarity and for pacing the site with a bin bag permanently attached to their hand gathering up the builders' discarded fag butts, Pot Noodles and - often - the instructions for the sliding door that have been trodden into the ground.

On a meticulous building like ours one spends much time getting people to correct errors they have made along the way. I've come to accept that rarely will things be right first time, so the stomach-sinking moment of calling a tradesperson to begin the re-appraisal of the job, is something I am trying to get used to. And yet I am time and time again floored by how reluctant tradespeople are to say 'Sorry' even for the most superficial customer relations reasons. In other words, saying sorry even if you think you're in the right, to make the other party feel better and hence treat you better in the long run. Is it that hard to?! Why are tradespeople exempt from this common courtesy?

It must be page one in almost every other profession's "Guide To Getting On With People You Work For' and yet I have never ever heard it from anyone that's worked on the site regardless of how often they have delayed the job, got it wrong, misjudged something, not turned up or damaged something on site. Is it a guy thing or a coincidence that the profession is male -dominated?
If you've hired female builders please let me know otherwise!?

Take for example our order to have a simple coir doormat fitted on site recently by one of Kendal's leading carpet retailers. The guys come and go, we look at their endeavours and find 3 out of 4 badly hacked edges and even a slither of mat stuffed under the door frame to try and make up for the all-round undersizing of the piece. The bill arrives - £133. Adam calls them to tell them that the job isn't good enough and is met with the all too familiar terse local response "Well, OUR people were satisfied with the job..."
Well, that's the matter settled then is it?
Here's how to do it: "Oh, I am really sorry to hear that and apologise if the work is not to your satisfaction - how can we help put it right?"

What's really perplexing is that 9 times out of 10 the person does return to remedy the problem and not always because we won' t pay them until they do. They usually look at the work, sigh deeply and acknowledge the cock-up.

The peculiar dynamic of these meetings is such that one can't tell if they literally couldn't see what a bad job they'd done before (bad) or if they left the job knowing it wasn't going to wash with the client and didn't care (worse).
Probably they just hoped to get away with it. And now they haven't.
And it's you, the client, who should be sorry, ok?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Flattery will get you anywhere

Sometimes building can really get you down, as the guy on last night's Grand Design's more than illustrated. But then he was clearly nuts, trying to build what was really a folly and getting into a Planning nightmare that I sincerely empathised with (one day I will write our saga)....
When you spend your waking hours persuading locals (tradespeople, Planners, neighbours) of the sincerity of your ambitions - and usually failing - its SO nice to get feedback from perfect strangers on how much they love the Love Shack.
I had some the other day from The Modern House a company which to call an 'estate agent' is like calling The Love Shack , erm...just that, a shack.
Thanks guys.