In recent years, I’ve found that one of the biggest issues facing the surveying business is a lack of understanding of how building surveyors work. Many clients are unclear about what to expect from their surveyor, both in terms of their exact role on any given project and in terms of what fees and timescales are reasonable. This can make it hard to judge whether a surveyor is offering a suitably professional service and giving value for money. Of course, the blame for this lies with nobody other than building surveyors ourselves!
The good news is that this means it is in our power to change things for the better. And, as with any other professional service, the key is good communications at every stage of interaction with a client: from initial enquiries through to the delivery of services, and all importantly, throughout what is hopefully a long-term relationship.
One particular issue facing clients is that no two surveying firms are quite alike. Some focus on high-volume service delivery, for example conducting flat-buyer’s surveys for a succession of individual clients. Others, like Earl Kendrick, offer a more bespoke service to select clients in the residential property business. In between, there is a vast array of firms specialising in a variety of different services. Many do a brilliant job for their clients. A few, not so much. So how can clients know if they have the right surveyor for their particular needs?
A good building surveyor will make an effort to ensure clients understand the service they are offering, and the outcomes they should expect. A key issue is timescales. Often clients assume what seems like a straightforward service like applying for licence to alter should take no more than a couple of weeks. If it takes more like six weeks, that’s not necessarily because the surveyors are dragging their heels. But, of course, if they haven’t explained the probable timescale to the client, that’s exactly how it will seem! So it is vital to be upfront from the very beginning about what’s realistic.
Crucially, this means a good surveyor cannot afford to be a ‘people pleaser’, telling clients what they want to hear in the hope that things will turn out for the best. Too often, that’s what happens when surveyors are under pressure and respond to events as they occur rather than working strategically. Overly busy firms end up ‘fire-fighting’ in response to one crisis after another, giving their time to whichever client happens to be shouting loudest. In the end, this satisfies no one, because their work will be rushed and, even if it’s satisfactory to one client, it will often come at the expense of another.
Happily, there is a better way. Whatever service they offer, the best surveyors take care to explain the process to their clients, so they know what’s realistic and what’s not. And they keep channels of communications open at all times. They reach out proactively to keep clients informed about how things are going, especially if events change, and they explain why. That way, clients can be confident that they are getting the best possible service at every stage. And rather than reacting to events, the surveyor can get on with providing the professional and efficient service their clients expect.
Julian Davies MRICS is the founder and Managing Director of Earl Kendrick Associates
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