Mactaggart & Mickel: Boost staff confidence and gain competitive advantage with professional qualifications

“What attracted us most to the Institute was the fact that it’s a forward looking national organisation interested in the future of customer service. The Institute doesn’t just tell us what’s happening now, they also help us to prepare our business for the future, anticipating customers’ changing needs.”

Established as a family-run house building business in 1925, Mactaggart & Mickel is one of the UK’s leading housebuilders. 

“We’re very proud of our heritage and of our resilience,” says Joanne Casey, Mactaggart & Mickel’s Sales & Marketing Director. “We have been home builders for a long time and we’ve managed to adapt to a variety of challenges over the years and continue to move forward as a successful business with a very loyal and capable team.”

Customer service as a key element of the home buying process 

Customer service is an essential part of the home buying process as Joanne explains: “Buying a house is usually the single biggest purchase we ever make and the process can be very stressful. Customers’ expectations have risen dramatically in recent years and people are not always at their best when they are stressed and frustrated. 

There are so many different people involved – solicitors, estate agents, lenders – that buying a home can be a lengthy and daunting prospect. Our sales agents help people through the entire process – easing the pressure and keeping things moving. The level of customer service they provide is vitally important.”

Once the home has been sold, the sales agents’ relationship with the purchaser continues for another two years, as they are responsible for addressing any customer service issues that arise after the purchaser has moved in.

“There are 40,000 components in each new home”, says Joanne “so things do go wrong from time to time. We try to look at each complaint as an opportunity for us to demonstrate our customer service skills. As the customer-facing staff, our sales agents want to resolve any issues quickly, but it’s also in their interests to ensure that tradesmen fix the problem properly the first time around, making them very thorough.

“We’re very customer service focused as a business, but we know we’re not perfect, we’ve still got weaknesses and we’re willing to invest in improving, even during challenging times.”

Boosting confidence at a difficult time 

“We chose to invest in staff training and customer service at a time when most of our competitors were focusing on cost-cutting,” says Joanne. “The business relies very heavily on our customer-facing sales agents out in the field. Working at our development sites across Edinburgh, Glasgow, the West Coast and Ayrshire, they make the sales and bring money into the business, but they can sometimes feel a little remote so we need to ensure that they are well supported and confident in their ability to do the job – particularly during challenging times.

“When we first became members of the Institute, the agents were having a particularly difficult time due to negative headlines surrounding the housebuilding industry. We have a very capable and experienced team, but they were constantly reading articles about the recession and falling property prices, so it was important for us to ensure that they kept positive and helped us to maintain competitive advantage.” 

Looking forward 

“We were already investing in staff training, but we wanted to raise our game and recognised that the Institute could potentially add another dimension to what we were already doing,” explains Joanne. “Customer service had always been important to the business, but it had never been benchmarked before. We did some research and read some of the Institute’s articles and were initially very impressed.

“What attracted us most to the Institute was the fact that it’s a forward looking national organisation interested in the future of customer service. The Institute doesn’t just tell us what’s happening now, they also help us to prepare our business for the future, anticipating customers’ changing needs.”

Institute Chief Executive Jo Causon and Account Director Shirley McNabney were invited to present to Mactaggart & Mickel’s board. “They made a presentation which really helped to reinforce the company’s vision to implement superb customer service”, adds Joanne.

Initial staff fears are replaced with confidence and pride 

“Some of our most experienced agents were nervous about the process and what would be expected of them,” says Joanne “but it quickly became clear that they were more than capable of meeting Institute standards and their confidence grew. Our agents haven’t all been to university, or recently studied for exams, but they routinely provide good customer service, because it’s in their nature. 

The Institute training breaks key areas of service down into manageable chunks and has helped them to become more aware of the service they provide.”

Mactaggart & Mickel has put 17 sales agents through the Institute’s professional qualifications to date and the success rate is 100 per cent.

“When I visit the sales agents’ offices, I notice that they display the framed Institute certificates on their desks. Having a professional customer service qualification is something that they take great pride in – it’s very motivating.”

Promoting recognition

Having received a significant confidence boost, Mactaggart & Mickel decided to seek accreditation from the Home Builders Federation (HBF), by participating in the National New Home Customer Satisfaction Survey.

“We were awarded the maximum five star rating,” says Joanne “because more than 90 per cent of our purchasers said that they would recommend us. We wouldn’t have considered participating in the survey unless the Institute had given the confidence to do so and we were delighted to achieve a five star rating at our first attempt.”

Strengthening the business and contributing to the bottom line

Having achieved national recognition, Mactaggart & Mickel are working hard to ensure that their service standards continue to improve.

“There’s lots of experience and enthusiasm in the business, but the Institute has made us all take a step back, recognise our strengths, focus on what we’re really good at and identify areas for improvement”, concludes Joanne. “Customer service is becoming even more important now that the housing market is recovering. By offering better service, we’re able to strengthen our position in the industry, setting ourselves apart from other housebuilders and increasing new home sales. 

Mactaggart and Mickel’s relationship with the Institute has also helped them to engage with their employees out in the field. “The professional qualifications have boosted our agents’ confidence. Their loyalty to the business has increased even further and they feel stronger and more confident when it comes to selling homes – making a difference to the bottom line and growing the business.

“The family name is above the door, so it’s very important for us to protect that. We can’t afford to stand still, we want to excel.”