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Editorial: You can't give no satisfaction

Several things have come across my desk in the last few days. Along with the proofs of The Leaders and the usual deluge of press releases - don't knock it, Paul, they are your lifeblood - has come an e-mail from BSRIA containing its annual client satisfaction document.
Now, as you know, I am always banging on about customer service. And it always makes me think of a friend of mine who, when he read a previous comment, told me 'Main contractors don't want service they want lowest cost tender'.

I think that they still do. Looking at some of the results from the contractors in The Leaders, this is what you are giving them. The turnover may be there but as I worked down the chart I was surprised by how little goes on to the bottom line. That's the problem. Except for one or two these are still 2007 and in a couple of cases 2006 results.

What will this year bring?
Will 2007 prove to be the last of the boom years? Certainly in the last couple of months the domestic house building market has ground to a halt and many building workers have been made redundant. And of course very little house building means very little fit-out work for m&e contractors.This in turn means there will be more and more m&e contractors chasing any work that comes up. Which leaves the developer or the main contractor with even more of the whip hand (or perhaps a whip in each).

Anyway back to the customer satisfaction figures.

The BSRIA figures are for 2007. They show a fairly low level of customer satisfaction of m&e and FM contractors. BSRIA said that it asked those taking part in the poll to score satisfaction as eight or above. Obviously the figures are averaged out but as far as I can see no-one is satisfied.
And there are a number of catagories in which the principals are not satisfied, in fact all of them seem to fall below the 'eight or above' level.

Some have got better. For instance, managing health and safety has risen from 7.0 in 2006 to 7.1 in 2008. Reactive response is up too from 6.9 to 7.0 in 2008 and record keeping has risen to 6.4 from 6.2. Additional works is also up by 0.1 to 6. The rest are the same - control environmental impact, quality of PPM - or down - energy efficiency, staff skills, and invoicing.

Overall it seems that m&e contractors could do better. But then costs come into the equation.
It would be easy to throw more, or better, staff at the job but only if money were no object. And for all the talk of partnering, repeat business and satisfaction, the work would still go out of the window if it became too dear.

I was speaking to an m&e contractor recently at the Buderus-sponsored Upton Rhythm and Blues Festival and he was bemoaning late payments by main contractors. If he is paid late, he cannot afford to buy the next lot of appliances upfront and therefore forfeits the bulk discounts.
'If this happens too often I have to raise my prices when tendering for jobs and I become uncompetitive,'

For sure, whether there is a soft landing or a full-blown recession, business is getting tough and will get tougher.

11 August 2008


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