Published: 26th Nov 2020

Arrange your services to support effective service charge activity and your whole business will run more smoothly, writes Jon Slade, director at Campbell Tickell.

We work on every aspect of operational consultancy at Campbell Tickell. The variety is one of the things we love. Most aspects of housing operations vary from one organisation to the next. But there is one type of review that is always the same. We need to talk about service charges. Firstly, no one quite knows where to put the team, is it a finance role? Or an operations role? And this question of where the team sits reflects a wider question: are the team there to deal only with the charges or also with the services?

Currently we are seeing an increase in the number of service charge reviews. Organisations want to know that their service charge operation is charging the right amount for the right things. When we look under the bonnet the story is always remarkably similar. You know those laser pens that you must not under any circumstances, point at a helicopter? Service charge customer enquiries are like that, they will reach deep into your operations pinpointing the weaknesses in your service delivery and holding those weaknesses up in plain sight.

‘Frustrated. That’s the word for every service charge team we have worked with. Many of them have the responsibility for fielding the calls about service failure but not the power or the influence to do any more than cause each individual issue to be resolved.’

Pinpoint weaknesses

Poor quality or inappropriate service specification; failure to consult during procurement; service delivery not to specification; contract management not dealing with poor performance? Wherever the weakness is, a persistent service charge customer will take you to it.

Frustrated. That’s the word for every service charge team we have worked with. Many of them have the responsibility for fielding the calls about service failure but not the power or the influence to do any more than cause each individual issue to be resolved.

Marginalised. What must it feel like to learn that a new contract has been put in place, which replicates the problems with the service specification that you have been hearing about and raising for the last five years? Or that another contract has been put in place without proper consultation? Or to be continually dealing with service failure yet seeing no change in how contract management is handled?

Top notch service charges

  • The right service specification
  • Appropriately procured, including consultation
  • Services delivered as per spec ification
  • Contract well managed
  • Service failure dealt with effectively
  • The right costs exported from operations into billing
  • Accurate apportionment of costs
  • Easy to understand bills
  • Good transparency: easy for a customer to understand where costs came from, the basis of the costs and to access relevant service specs.

A smoothly running business

We think service charge enquiries come from customers who are interested in the cost and quality of service and that the mechanics of a great service charge operation are requirements that every director would want their operations to achieve. Yet the problems persist.

It is an excellent challenge to set your organisation: to hear what your customers are telling your service charge team and to act to remedy the systemic shortfalls as well as the spot service failures.

As a rule of thumb, 20% of a service charge team’s calls are about charges, 80% are about services. If you arrange your services to support effective service charge activity your whole business will run better. Which is an excellent win-win in these testing times.

To discuss this article, click here to email Jon Slade

Photo Credit – Geralt (Pixabay)

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