Builder's steps to improve customer service

Persimmon's pre-tax profits surpassed 1bn
Persimmon's pre-tax profits surpassed 1bn
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Leading FTSE 100 housebuilder Persimmon has outlined a four-point plan to improve its customer service following criticism about customer satisfaction levels.

The York-based firm, which also announced that interim chief executive Dave Jenkinson will stay on in the role permanently, said it will put more money into customer care as a first move.

Secondly, it will improve its communication with customers and will become the first housebuilder to introduce weekend and evening calls.

Thirdly, it will improve the quality of its houses.

“We have had difficulty at sites where demand has been the strongest,” said Mr Jenkinson.

Fourthly, the firm will improve the way complaints are dealt with.

“This will deal with issues with the property that need rectifying,” said Mr Jenkinson.

Mr Jenkinson has been with Persimmon for 22 years. He took on the interim chief executive position four months ago after previous chief Jeff Fairburn left amid controversy surrounding his £75m pay package.

Mr Jenkinson has agreed not to receive a bonus in 2019, which will appease shareholders.

He was speaking as the firm reported revenue growth of 4 per cent in 2018 to £3.74bn.

Pre-tax profits surpassed £1bn, rising 13 per cent to £1.09bn.

Legal completions in 2019 are expected to be flat on the previous year at around £2.02bn.

Mr Jenkinson said the results reflected the success of Persimmon’s strategy of targeting mostly first-time buyers, but said there was more to do and pledged to improve the business under his leadership.

“My focus is to build on this strong platform, maintaining our operational momentum, but also implementing a number of necessary new initiatives in customer care,” he said.

“A wide range of projects to improve customer satisfaction commenced in late 2018 and the initial results have been encouraging, giving us confidence in our ability to make progress in this important area.”

It comes as the company’s right to sell Help to Buy homes comes under scrutiny amid Government concerns.

A source close to Housing Secretary James Brokenshire said the minister had become increasingly concerned over the last 12 months.

Mr Jenkinson said he is confident Persimmon will be part of the next Buy to Let arrangements.

Persimmon said the lack of clarity with respect to the UK’s exit from the EU is currently creating additional unpredictability, but the firm is working with suppliers to identify materials that be restricted.

Persimmon said it sold more homes in 2018 despite uncertainty from Britain’s impending European Union exit.

Legal completions increased by 406 new homes to 16,449 with an average selling price of £215,563, up 1 per cent on 2017 when the average price was £213,321.

Persimmon, which is focused on building cheaper family houses, said it is ready for whatever Brexit decision Parliament comes to.

“We are neutral and we’ve positioned ourselves at the lower end of the market,” said Mr Jenkinson.

This means the group is less susceptible to housing jitters as its houses are more affordable than many of its rivals.

British property surveyors are more downbeat about the short-term outlook for house prices than they have been in nearly eight years and sellers are shying away from putting homes on the market.

Peel Hunt analysts said in a note: “The group’s relatively poor record on customer satisfaction has come under increased scrutiny and we expect Dave Jenkinson ... to invest more in build quality over the next few years.”