#5: Refocus Your Customer Service Experience
As the most widely used resource, your customer service staff greatly help contractors with issues and permit approval. But with long lines and approval times, the contractor is affected. Here are three points which can improve the customer service effectiveness.
The first point is understanding the expectations from the contractor’s point of view. A survey by the Performance Alliance found that 50% of permit applications, contractors were initially not providing the required Title 24 Energy Code documents (1). Here are a few helpful questions to ask:
- Do they know when to provide each required document at which time?
- Is this easy to understand for them?
Knowing expectations of required documents in an easy to understand process is critical to the contractor’s success.
The second point is making it easier for contractors to get questions answered. Widely seen as an improvement from the building department’s perspective, the automated phone operator or straight-to-voicemail system increases the time it takes to converse with the department intended. With a contractor who frequently deals with your department, the automated operator wears down the experience. Having a “Frequently Asked Questions” page on your website can greatly help limit common questions and a department phone directory listed on your website helps point contractors in the right direction without having to deal with the automated operator.
The third suggestion is building healthy relationships with the contractor community. Using a newsletter tool like MailChimp to regularly educate and communicate with your community can greatly increase relationships which in turn means compliance.
BONUS #6: A Very Active Code Enforcement Program
If there is a cost to contractors (time, money, risk of not getting a job because of increased cost of permit) there will be people who try to skirt around the law. In order to deter this from happening, a level of enforcement will be needed. This can happen in two ways.
The first way is increasing access to the Building Permit Violation Form. When a contractor loses a bid to another contractor whose price was lower due to not permitting the work, the contractor wants a channel to provide that information to the building department. By making it easier for people to take down information and submit via an online, the number of publicly submitted reports will increase.
The second way is increasing the enforcement of local building departments. It is understood that building compliance enforcement is under minimal attention due to limited budget. The City of Cocoa has overcome this by moving the code enforcement under the Cocoa police department. Now, code enforcement has access to all investigative tools at the police department’s disposal (2). Even a small step of coordination with police to communicate construction to code enforcement will increase the number of eyes looking out for non-permitted work.
#1 Center of Sustainability – “HVAC Permit Compliance Survey Results”
#2 Cocoa Florida – “Code Enforcement Becomes Part of Police Department”