The reputation of the UK housebuilding industry is already on shaky ground – stories of poor quality homes, extensive snagging and sub-standard customer service isn’t unusual.
With that in mind, the story that surfaced yesterday evening regarding Bellway should come as little surprise.
In short, the story goes like this – a couple reserved a home from Bellway, but were concerned to find that a coal shaft was situated close to the property, which they hadn’t been aware of. Obvious concern followed (we should bear in mind that this was their first home, and those of us who have navigated the tortuous process should cast our minds back to that very first purchase where everything was an enigma).
Add to the mineshaft issue an additional erroneous payment for flooring, a deposit issue and a repeatedly incorrect name. While it admittedly wouldn’t have been my chosen recourse, the couple wrote a letter to the CEO of Bellway, Jason Honeyman. In this letter, the problems were outlined and – perhaps the issue that caused contention – they asked for a “gesture of goodwill” to make up for the inconvenience and ongoing problems.
We all know that, these days, the customer isn’t always right, but at the very least you’d generally expect to receive a politely worded letter advising that the issues would be rectified, alongside a conciliatory note of apology.
However, Bellway erred somewhat from the usual principles of good customer service.
Instead, Bellway responded with a letter – not from the CEO to whom the letter had been addressed – but from the North West regional managing director, who responded with a shirty letter, retorting “Bellway isn’t the builder for you” and briskly announcing that the home would once again be put on the market.
It seems Bellway customer service has much to be desired – with such poor service from the top, what should one expect from the rest of the business?
From a PR perspective, it’s a difficult decision to defend. Yes, perhaps the request was a bit cheeky, but the response illustrates utter contempt for the customer. It certainly does nothing for the reputation of the house builder, or indeed the wider industry.
The story has since been published in scores of publications across the country. However, from Bellway’s perspective, the most concerning content can be found in the comments section – the story has sparked intense debate around the quality of its homes, with many sharing their tales of woe.
While there are the usual back-slapping comments, Bellway should take little comfort in the sentiment.
Few would feel comfortable purchasing a Bellway home having seen yesterday evening’s debacle. Could you be sure that you would be treated fairly? What response would you receive should you need to make a complaint?
Bellway responded to media enquiries with the following response: “As an NHBC five-star accredited housebuilder, we are incredibly proud of our customer service and feel that it would be inappropriate and unprofessional to comment on individual customer cases which remain a private matter between ourselves and our customers.”
No doubt the couple in question are feeling sheepish and slightly embarrassed this evening, while Bellway has risked damaging its brand with its cavalier, ill-advised response and laissez faire attitude to customer care.