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Customer Service Team Interview

07 March 2019

Crosby: Morning ladies, I saw you pop out of the office before with a couple of Universal branded bags?

Mandy: Yes, they are the handover packs.

Meagan: For our clients. Inside is all the information they need for their new home. Like how to operate appliances, electronic keyless entry, warranties, who to get hold of if there are any problems, how to best maintain their garden — all those sorts of things.

Mandy: Over the years we’ve learned what our clients commonly require from us post settlement. One of our jobs is to make sure that when the client moves into their new home the whole process is as painless as possible. We let them know we are here as a back-up if they have any questions or need any advice on their new home.

Crosby: I guess you can pre-empt some requests then?

Meagan: Well, we work closely with our maintenance department and the sales consultants. If the same point comes up multiple times, we try to address it upfront either in the handover pack we give them when they move in, or in our correspondence beforehand. It depends a little on the type of house and the location, and we have a good system in place as now there are less post move-in client requests.

Crosby: So, what else do you do as our customer service team?

Mandy: We are here to help our clients through the exciting stage of buying a new home and deal with them once they have signed their contract and have gone unconditional. We provide regular construction updates on how the build is progressing. Officially we do this monthly, but we are trying to do every two weeks at the moment. We feel that updating the clients is a very important part of this process - due to health and safety reasons, clients are not able to gain access to their property, so by providing them with updates they are able to still monitor the progress of their home if purchased before completion.

Meagan: The project managers update their digital programme, but we also have a chat with them just to see if there is anything additional that we need to be aware of. Health and Safety is top priority for each Project Manager and Universal, so the site needs to have passed our health and safety criteria before we allow clients and their reps access to do curtain measures and valuations.

Mandy: Customer Service is all about building good relationships with the other departments within Universal Homes, especially our project managers. It makes it all the easier to discuss the programme and understand any delays that may affect our clients moving in date. Generally, any delays will be due to contractor and material availability, weather, or council building inspections.

Meagan: Timing is the main thing. Near the end of the project, occasionally council can take a little longer to grant a Code of Compliance Certificate or the Titles can take a little longer. So, we prepare our clients as best as possible.

Crosby: And quality, how do our clients report on that?

Mandy: Our clients know Universal will sort out any issues if they arise. We’ve been in the business of building houses for 60 years now and are stronger than ever. Our quality control is very good. We have a designated maintenance department who do pre-inspections before the client goes onsite to complete their owner’s inspection. A few years ago, Universal implemented an app which scores the house and project managers on how well they are delivering each home. This also includes outstanding items from the snag list, before the inspection even happens. So fewer and fewer items need to be attended to from the owner’s inspection. The maintenance department also deal with all maintenance issues once the client takes possession of their new home. So, we don’t just walk away once we have handed the keys over.

Crosby: Yes, I recall talking to Dan and Paul about that here. They have a competition amongst themselves to get 100%. So, what else? Meagan, before Universal?

Meagan: In my younger days I spent four and a half years as a hairdresser, but then fell pregnant with my son and left due to work/life balance. Later, I ended up managing a customer service team at Auckland Council. My team would provide general information, log customer requests and either action it themselves or liaise with contractors or business partners to get the job done.

Crosby: Requests?

Meagan: Yes, about dogs, libraries, rates, general issues (there were thousands). Ok, and a few complaints and the odd compliment! We certainly knew when council made a new decision that would impact people, as the phones would run hot. Nothing like Universal. We get quite a few compliments.

Crosby: Yes, all the testimonials you collect are fantastic. Good for marketing obviously. But good for everyone to see a satisfied client, how everyone’s good work impacts on making a happy homeowner. Mandy, before Universal?

Mandy: Originally from England having moved to Ireland 15 years ago, I’ve been living in New Zealand now since 2013 with no plans to leave as I love living here and love my job at Universal.  Since arriving in New Zealand, I have worked at the Naval Base in Devonport as a maintenance co-ordinator and as a property manager for a real estate firm. Having previously worked in marketing, accounts and customer service, all those attributes help with my job at Universal.

Meagan: Mandy and I have quite a lot in common. We both have sons, a mutual love of cats (if you’ve ever stepped foot in our office, you’ll see the collages on our wall) and live in Beach Haven.

Mandy: Literally around the corner from each other. Meagan and I get on really well together and socialise inside and outside of work. This really helps our role as more often than not we are sharing what we do, so talking to each other and keeping each other up to date is really vital.

Also, as part of the social committee, we have someone from each of our departments on the committee to provide a wide range of views and ideas on how we spend our social club funds organising events outside of work. This is great for office moral as we work for a large organisation and have a lot of staff who work and socialise together. Coming to work and working with people you get along with inside and outside of work makes for a very happy working environment. In organising these events we also get to meet the wives, husbands, girlfriends, boyfriends and children.

Crosby: Soccer mad, you were not happy that morning against Croatia!

Mandy: No, I wasn’t very happy the morning Croatia were playing England in the World Cup. Normally England haven’t got off the bench so to speak but last year I thought we had a good team who could go far. Tania, a good friend of mine from the office who happens to be Croatian, was in Croatia at the time texting us. The game went into extra time and England lost 2-1.

Crosby: Truly the dynamic duo then. Our clients are in good and warm hands!

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