Customer Care :
The Benefits of a Digital Handover Guide
Traditional paper handover packs and pdf’s on a USB stick are being replaced by fully digital, smartphone friendly apps that enhance the customer buying experience and reduce calls into customer care. In this article, we look at the benefits of moving to a digital handover guide.
Table of Contents
Handover Packs (also known as Home User Guides – HUG’s and more recently Home Information Packs and Property Log Books) are a mandatory part of the new build handover process to the customer. The handover pack should contain non-technical advice on how to operate and maintain the home in a healthy and energy efficient manner in a suitable form to be understood by the occupants. The guide is usually augmented to include other paperwork such as warranties, certifications, contacts, local area info etc.
The traditional method for delivering this vital information is via a paper pack or a collection of PDF’s on a USB stick. However, a more technologically advanced, fully digital solution is now being adopted by property developers who are changing their approach to cater for a more tech savvy clientele by delivering handover information online through any device e.g. mobile, tablet or desktop.
This article looks at the benefits of a fully digital handover pack.
Enhanced Customer Experience
Property developers understand that providing a great customer buying experience can not only make for a smooth transition from developer to buyer, but build and enhance its reputation.
Digital handover packs can help developers to cultivate these relationships by using technology to engage with customers, giving the appearance of a high touch approach but without the high overheads. For example, sharing image rich and detailed property information throughout the customer journey creates excitement for homebuyers, increases confidence and builds trust in the developer. Timely updates can reduce the need for onsite hard hat visits, freeing up time to focus on other important issues.
A great and engaging experience will naturally mean that house buyers will want to share their positive story with family and friends. In doing so, they become advocates that could potentially lead to more sales of current and future developments.
One of the obvious benefits of a digital handover pack is that it opens up the possibility to access information from:
- Any device – mobile, tablet or desktop
- Anywhere – onsite, offsite by homebuyers, customer care, sales
- Anytime – resilient cloud based platform
During the pandemic lockdowns, stories have emerged of customer service staff having to travel to the office to find paper based handover guides containing property information that buyers have queried. In one instance, that round trip took over 4 hours.
So whether you’re onsite, in the office, working from home or in between, the time saving benefits of having access to data takes away such pain points.
Environmental Impact – Sustainability
Paper based handover packs, usually held together in a branded often leather bound folder provide a very traditional means to handover paperwork to customers. It’s a nice feeling to receive a luxurious product but can also seem a waste when what matters is being able to quickly access and hone in on specific information inside.
Looking into the amount of paper used, we estimate that 1 tree can produce around 16 handover packs. This means that in 2019, just over 9,000 trees could have been saved !
To compound the environmental impact of paper based packs, 80% of ink cartridges used in printing and photocopying are thrown away instead of recycled. It takes 450-1000 years for a cartridge to decompose in landfills.
Some developers provide handover packs on a USB stick. This has the benefit of reducing some of the paper however, it also makes the data more difficult to access which often means the USB stick sits idle, gets lost or thrown away. Informal E-waste such as USB sticks, are normally disposed of with household rubbish which means they end up in landfill or waste incineration plants which are particularly harmful to the environment.
Maintaining the Golden Thread
Post the Grenfell tragedy in 2016, Dame Judith Hackitt’s review into building regulations and fire safety was published in 2018. The report sought to identify where the accountability lay and to put forward recommendations for building more safely and responsibly.
“The review heard almost unanimous concern surrounding the ineffective operation of the current rules around the creation, maintenance and handover of building and fire safety information. Where building information is present, it is often incomplete or held in paper form and is not accessible to the people who need to see it.” The interim report identified the need for a ‘golden thread’ of information for all higher risk residential buildings (HRRBs).
The report highlighted the need for a digital record and the importance of residents’ voices within these homes, namely that residents should be able to access key information such as fire risk assessments, safety case documentation and information on maintenance and asset management relating to the safety of their homes. A digital handover pack can facilitate such requirements, maintaining the golden thread of information.
Improve Operational Efficiency
Creating handover packs takes time, effort and can be costly. Digital handover packs can benefit developers of all sizes, from micro to volume developers, but those developments of 20 plots/units and upwards is where the paperwork can start to become unmanageable. . Outsourcing the process to a 3rd party is an option, but this can be costly. Moving to digital overcomes this issue as creating additional packs can simply be reproduced using a few mouse clicks then customised. Errors, missing pages, oversights can all be easily corrected prior to handover. It also means both developer and customer get an identical copy of what is handed over, providing a snapshot and audit for any queries down the line.
Upfront information for home sales
Within the digital corridors of the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, momentum is building around the need for upfront property information for new and existing residential properties. This initiative is being coordinated by the Home Buying and Selling Group. Providing upfront information can help in a number of ways but primarily, it can help speed up the transaction and also help to reduce sales falling through. At the heart of this proposal is the ability to collect and share property information in a digital way. By providing all the paperwork and property information through a digital handover guide or logbook, developers can ready themselves by moving to a digital process.
The benefits of digital handover guides far outweigh the current outdated methods of using paper (or pdf’s on a USB stick). Going fully digital means; a greater operational efficiency, easier access, standardising handover packs across developments, customers enjoying a much richer and enjoyable home buying experience and one that is much more sustainable. All stakeholders in the homebuying lifecycle can benefit, from Sales teams prospecting for new buyers by keeping them engaged to minimize sale fall through rates, to Customer care who can look forward to a reduced number of trivial calls as buyers self-serve.
In addition, momentum is building from a government and industry perspective to digitalise the customer buying journey, primarily to speed up transactions and reduce fall throughs. Developers and Estate Agents (working on behalf of developers) should organise their operations around being fully digital and get ahead of future announcements sooner rather than later and reap the benefits of being digital.
Thought provoking posts for the new build sector covering Customer Experience, Innovation and Thought Leadership