After a very poor start to the housing contract, with thousands of complaints from families living in homes not fit for purpose, CarillionAmey’s managing director Daniel Easthope (pictured above) responds to Army&You readers’ questions…
Q. Contractors are of no use if they spend half their day on the road. Communicate with us and you’ll be surprised how flexible some of us will be. What is being done to improve scheduling and calling ahead?
A. We know our scheduling hasn’t been good enough and we’ve taken the following steps:
- We’re providing better training to improve the way that jobs are scheduled to our engineers.
- We’ve brought in more people to reduce the backlog and introduced weekend work.
- We’ve emphasised to engineers the importance of good communication and the need to call customers ahead of arriving. They are also being briefed on recording accurate information so that the right parts and tradesmen are noted for any follow-up work.
- We’re increasing text message alerts for our customers unless customers opt out.
Q. The complaints team are unable to authorise, escalate or speed up repairs and rarely give a decent response at the end of it (that’s if they haven’t simply closed it without telling me). What is the point of your complaints system?
A. In the past we were not responding to all complaints efficiently or effectively as needed. In order to improve, we’ve done the following:
- Employed more people in the customer care team who must resolve complaints within the first ten days or the complaint goes to a director. The customer must be kept up to speed and shouldn’t have to chase for updates. Managers will take ownership for an individual complaint through to resolution, so people will start to see a more personal service.
- Intensive training will help the team provide detailed responses that address the complaint issues to better understand what has gone wrong, why, what lessons we’ve learned, and what actions we are taking to stop repeat issues.
- A complaint should not be closed without a conversation/and/or letter to the customer. If this happens, the complaint is re-opened and investigated.
We know that things are starting to move in the right direction as complaint numbers are beginning to fall.
Q. When are you going to accept you cannot fulfil your contract and let another company have a go?
A. We have had challenges with this contract but at every stage we’ve been upfront and honest about them. We are in for the long haul because we know that we can fulfil this contract. All the indications are that we are on track to deliver our improvement plan and this should bring about change for the better. We care passionately about delivering a good service.
Q. Why, when you have 15 days to prepare a property after the last family moves out, are families still moving into dirty and broken quarters?
A. In some areas this has worked, but in others we’ve still got challenges. I don’t find it acceptable for properties not to be clean at move-in. We are reviewing cleaning standards, consistency of cleaning materials and equipment, levels of supervision and training for Accommodation Officers (AOs). This will drive standards up and make sure the service delivers.
Q. Who is meant to be in charge of looking after the patch? Quarter areas used to be well looked after and now some of them are just a total mess.
A. AOs should be walking around their patches checking for issues such as graffiti, streetlights not working, damage to play park equipment and problems with block garages. If you have a patch management issue, contact the helpdesk or your local customer service centre and they will alert the AO. Families also need to make sure they don’t leave litter, engage in fly-tipping and that they use designated bins for dog waste.
Q. Last winter was a nightmare for heating problems and you assured us that it would be better this winter but it hasn’t been – when are you going to get it to work?
A. I know we’ve let people down and that simply isn’t good enough. We’ve employed in excess of 100 people: engineers, administrators, managers and AOs. We’ve relocated our main gas scheduling team to our helpdesk and we’ve got the parts team, supply team and scheduling teams sitting side by side working together. New boilers continue to be installed and there are more planned for the next financial year.
Q. Why are people paying hundreds of pounds for move-out cleans through the WalkAway scheme, only for the next occupant to move in and find it has not been cleaned? This is fraud!
A. The walkaway scheme allows families to walk away from their properties without cleaning leaving us responsible for bringing the property up to the move-out standard. Families are not paying for a cleaning service they are paying to be able to leave their property without having to clean it. If properties don’t meet move-in standards, we are held to account for this failure under our contract.
Q. Why do I have to book follow-up jobs like painting of the replaced ceiling? You expect me to have the original job reference, even after the contractor has said they will get any follow-up booked in. This should be done automatically.
A. Yes, it should be done automatically. The engineer is responsible for updating the job notes which alert the scheduling team about what follow-on works are needed. They then arrange the work at a time that is convenient for you. We’re running some intensive customer service training which is helping to improve this but if you have problems, please let us know.
Q. Why is it that my kitchen does not meet move-in standards and would be replaced if we were moving in, but as we are already here we have to put up and shut up? How is that justified?
A. We are trying to do as much work as possible to upgrade properties whilst they are empty knowing that families would rather not have work take place when they are in situ. However, we still do some improvement work such as kitchen and bathroom upgrades in occupied properties as part of the annual funding programme.
LETTING FAMILIES DOWN
Q. I’d like to know how the MD considers his position to be tenable when the delivery of the contract has been a failure from the start and CA are letting Forces families down.
A. I could not possibly let my people shoulder the burden of getting this right without leading from the front. Yes, there are things we could have done better and I take full responsibility for them and I’m determined to drive the improvements needed for us to get better. Our improvement plan is well underway and I’m confident that we will reach our targets and deliver the contract as was originally intended. I intend to work side-by-side with the CarillionAmey team.
Thank you to all of you who submitted questions and housing issues. Your evidence has helped bring about CA’s improvement programme. AFF is expecting the situation to improve, but if you continue to experience difficulties contact AFF’s Housing Specialist, Cat Calder, at firstname.lastname@example.org