Monday, December 30, 2013

Building Relations Not Just Walls!

Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning…Bill Gates.

Well no need to introduce who the author of this quote is as he is the person who took customer service in his industry at a new level; “User Friendly” is the word he introduced in complex product like software & right from five year kid to eighty years old grandma are now User Friendly with computer, thanks to Microsoft! Unfortunately the real estate in our country seems to be taken only first part of his quote, when it comes to customer service! While entering in a new year where everybody is quite wary about entire economy & what lies ahead, real estate is also no exception. Agreed because of the nature of the product where most of the time demand exceeds supply, over the years the real industry has enjoyed monopoly when it comes to sale! So on this front let’s focus ourselves on Pune real estate which is a Metro in making. Recently in the year end a survey has been conducted & the outcome has been published in all the news papers. It’s about complaints registered at District Consumer Forum in year 2013 & needless to say the real estate has topped here. Out of nearly 560 total complaints 217 i.e. 40% were against builders in & around Pune!

Well many will say what’s big deal?  Don’t we know the way builders treat rather cheat their customers, & rather we would have been surprised if any other profession would have been at top in this survey! Well can’t really blame them as each day real estate does make headlines but mostly for wrong doing is a fact. Reasons may be many but that’s what the image of builders is in common man’s eyes but what is reality? To me agreed this industry in past hasn’t been much customer friendly but look at the sheer size of turnover in compare to numbers of units as well the money involved in yearly transaction & the large segment which it covers! All though no agency has exact record of how many numbers of flats has been sold & what’s amount of these flats per year yet it must be way beyond any consumer good even automobiles is what my experience says. And the industry is not professional as anybody with land & some money under his belt can become a builder, & this anybody don’t have any background nor training to deal with the customer of his profession. Most of the complaints if you analyze are about the builders who don’t have any pedigree or one timer’s i.e. single project type. And the nature of complaints is again same i.e. not fulfilling possession commitments or not providing committed amenities & then about poor quality construction. Here in this industry frankly there are no set norms for the quality as yet most of the works are carried by manual labor especially finishing work like tiling, woodwork & painting. Not many customers are keen to check quality on durability & strength basis; they just go by the finish look of the project.

The major reason of all the post deal complaints or drift between the developer & the client is no dialogue, neither during the booking process & nor during the construction! If you see the points of conflicts most could have been avoided if proper communication has been kept between the client & the developer & for that it’s very important from developers side to be in touch with the customers on regular basis. Now a days there are web sites, email, whatsap, image sharing web site & many such tools through which you can keep updating all the information regarding the site & its work to the clients who have booked their home in that project. Most people have net access on their cell phone so information sharing is very easy. What is my experience with real estate is, still it’s very primitive when it comes to operating the business. Most of the clients still like to be in touch with the main person behind the company i.e. chief promoter or the builder we may call him. If the builder can keep himself available to the clients by using any of above medium or build a strong second rank in the organization which can be available for any of the smallest quarry by the customer then such group rarely faces any problem from the customers. After all what a common customer wants is someone who can listen him & act upon whatever his requirement is & that action may not be always as per what he wants, we can be politely say no but the no should come with logic! And nothing wrong is such expectation of the customer after all this is age of customers & real estate is no exception to the rule!

Here is where importance of the dialogue between the customer & the builder is vital as if we can explain the reason of the complaint to the customer & then act within committed time, there won’t be any clashes. But what is observed is either the builder neglects customers complaint because he really doesn’t care about the same or many a times the complaint isn’t right in itself or out of capacity of the developer to repair or attain. For e.g. if some flat holder got interior changes in his toilet after possession & then the toilet starts leakage in the flat below, obviously the flat holder will come to builder. And agreed the builder is at no fault yet he should not avoid or shrug of the flat holder who is suffering but try to resolve the issue by taking joint meeting of the both flat holders involved. This will make at least the builders image better in the eyes of the suffering flat holder. Let’s remember no problem can be solved by avoiding it & best way is through the problem & not around the problem!

Also, right from the construction stage arrange small get together at site with the customers who have booked flats in that project. This will create a bond between the clients’ right from beginning & it will help them to have a better communication amongst themselves when they will get possession & actually start living over there. And through such interactions we could educate the clients about the construction techniques we use at site as well make them aware about the maintenance issues which may come up in future such as hair cracks in plaster or seepage in rains!

The role of the client also is equally important as no dialogue can go just one way, we should demand from the developer as much information we can about our own project as well his completed projects, as it will save us from lots of bitter experiences ahead. As number of complaints has been about not fulfilling the commitments made about amenities or possession date. Try to dig about the past of the developer before entering in any deal as past is like a mirror for any business house, so it’s better to inquire before it’s too late! Again many a people goes with what’s been projected in advertise or brochures only, which is a wrong practice. Speak with existing customers of the developer as well with the principal person, try to know about his values & approach to the business. Such thing does help in ensuring that you are dealing with proper person & putting your money in safe hands. If we really want to make the real estate industry to look after by a common man with respect then the terms like transparency & trust should come in our action & not remain just bookish things. 

The times are changing fast & technology is making people aware about good practices being followed all over the globe. Agreed land remains most scarce thing & it does give builders an upper hand in compare to any other business but then it’s a responsibility also!
Here Govt also should form a special tribunal for all sorts of real estate issues, especially disputes amongst builder & clients or land title claims. As at present civil courts as well revenue department takes too much time due to their other work load. This will make people respect the law as a justice delay is justice denied!  

Organizations of the developers like Credai have their Grievance Cell which looks after the consumer’s complaints on association forum & this information should be made to reach more & more home buyers as well existing customers. Also the associations should work on educating the fellow developers about good ethics of the business as well becoming customer friendly. As it’s surely not a good image to top in the list of Consumer Complaints List! And it’s up to us only to straighten up this record by our own conduct , then only we can be eligible to call us Developer, as being the developer doesn’t mean just building walls, selling them & make money but it’s to develop a society of humans where the culture of good things will grow & flourish!

Sanjay Deshpande

Sanjeevani Dev.

MSEDCL (Power) Committee, Credai, Pune

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1 comment:

  1. your view is very right sir. i would like to add one point .ie. Site Management should be aware about this things, because many clients are unhappy about finishing work & FEW Site Civil Engineers are neglects to attend the compliants. Clients never approch direct to Developers...firstly he complaint to site management...But unfortunetly some site authorty person neglects it...or some Developers are not serious about it.


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