Effective communication is key to the work of the ARB. We are committed to building and maintaining relationships with key stakeholders for the benefit of consumers and architects alike.
Our stakeholders typically fall into three groups: users of architectural services; architects (both directly and in the form of professional bodies); and students, schools, and institutions of architecture.
These three broad groups cover large numbers of people, but there are other very distinct entities, who are also key stakeholders including the UK Government; European institutions; European counterparts; consumer organisations; other regulators and organisations operating in the built environment sector.
ARB recognises that not all stakeholders are proactive communicators, neither are they all well-represented nor well-resourced. As an independent statutory regulator, we are also committed to seeking out and responding to the voices of the less heard.
We have well-established channels of communication with architects and professional bodies as well as students and schools/institutions of architecture. Informing users of architectural services about the Register, and the role of ARB has also been central to our communications strategy over recent years, with the development of accessible resources such as the online Register and a new-look website. In 2013 work in this area has continued apace.
We exhibited at key consumer exhibitions such as Grand Designs Live and the Homebuilding and Renovating show; we developed links with organisations including TrustMark and the Trading Standards Institute; and we undertook a project working with local authorities to include information about the statutory Register and the role of ARB on their websites.
Shows and Exhibitions Attended
ARB exhibited at two shows in 2013: Homebuilding and Renovating and Grand Designs, both at the NEC in Birmingham. During both events ARB received a large number of diverse visitors to its stand: members of the public, architects, architectural students and school pupils interested in architecture. At both shows staff presented information about the work of the Board and the value of the Register. Visitors were invited to complete a short interactive survey which also allowed for some valuable discussion with consumers and architects. Feedback from consumers was very positive:
- “Although I didn’t check my architect was registered, knowing what I now know I would in future.”
- “Thanks for making me aware.”
- “Oops, I feel rather naive!!”
- “Yours is probably the most important stand we’ll visit all day so thank you!!”
Website – www.arb.org.uk
The ARB website is the organisation’s main resource for providing information to a variety of stakeholders. In February 2013 the new website was launched.
During the year traffic to the site outperformed 2012 consistently on a month by month basis. This is due to the relaunch of the website, but also the introduction of regular social media activity. Over the course of 2013 the site received 227,084 unique visits, an increase of 111% on 2012 (107,822 unique visits).
Online Register – www.architects-register.org.uk
In addition to the ARB main website the ‘Search the Register’ facility is hosted on its own domain name. There were a total of 219,294 unique visits during 2013. The data for April to December 2012 shows 136,209 unique visits, compared to 161,606 for the same period in 2013, an increase of 19% for 2013.
During 2013 we started to actively participate in social media. The level of engagement was low initially; however numbers towards the end of the year started to pick up.
Complaints, feedback and consultations
As a forward-looking organisation we want to hear from those who use our services and are affected by our work. Such views are crucial to the development of a responsive, effective regulator.
Services – ARB is dedicated to providing a high level of service but we recognise that sometimes things can go wrong. We are concerned when this happens and therefore welcome all feedback, whether it is positive or negative, to help us identify the problem and to improve things for the future.
Policies – There are times when people disagree with our policies and procedures which leads them to complain. When complaints relate to such issues we take time to explain the reasoning behind the processes and procedures in question. We also reflect on the issues raised, considering the complainant’s perspective, with a view to understanding if indeed our procedures are transparent, clear and fair. Complaints about policies and procedures are reviewed by the manager of the team concerned and, where appropriate, by the Registrar and the Board.
Consultations – When we are considering making a substantial change to a policy or procedure we consult with stakeholders and, when appropriate, we conduct public consultations. The responses received to these inform the development and implementation of revised and new policies.
During 2013, we received a number of complaints relating to the change in the retention fee payment date. We responded to every one of these and have made changes to our retention fee communications and payment options in light of the issues raised. We are keen to expand the methods and tools we use to communicate the retention fee deadline further still as we recognise that registrants appreciate reminders in different formats.
A small number of concerns were raised by both architects and consumers about the ARB’s professional conduct process relating to the outcomes of decisions with which they disagreed. A few issues were raised relating to timely replies to correspondence and a small number of complaints were received relating to other individual issues including an applicant’s qualifications, the ebulletin and the website. All complaints were investigated and appropriate action was taken.
We publish consultations and information about how to make customer service complaints on our website. We also publish information online about how to contact the relevant department within the organisation for individuals who want to raise issues relating to policies and procedures.
We value all the feedback we receive, and the time users of our services take to give their views. We take each complaint seriously and look to see whether there are improvements to be made or lessons to be learned, and we implement these in appropriate circumstances.
Below are examples of action we have taken in response to feedback we have received:
Action taken following feedback:
What feedback told us – Applicants and exam candidates said they wanted more information on the registration process and the examination process.
Action taken – In early 2013, to assist candidates and communicate the process on a different platform, we launched four online videos explaining the registration and examination processes. These online videos are available on YouTube and our website and have been viewed over 3600 times. Applicants and exam candidates have told us they have found these new resources very useful and the quality of applications received since the online videos have been uploaded to the website has increased.
What feedback told us – The Investigations Committee was taking too long to make decisions on whether or not an architect had a case to answer at the Professional Conduct Committee.
Action taken – We replaced the Investigations Committee with separate Investigations Panels, and recruited people with specific expertise in this area of work. The length of time taken to make decisions has subsequently dropped.
What feedback told us – Exam candidates told us that they would like reminder telephone calls a few days before their exams.
Action taken – We now have a reminder telephone call process whereby we contact applicants prior to the date of their exam. This has worked very well and the telephone contact has enabled us to answer additional questions that applicants have as exams approach, such as how to find the venue and queries about timings.
What feedback told us – Schools and Institutions applying for prescription (recognition) of a qualification, either for the first time or for a renewal, said that they would like examples of best practice which would offer them assistance in demonstrating how qualifications in architecture meet ARB’s criteria.
Action taken – The qualifications team updated the Good Practice Handbook to enhance the information on guidance for mapping qualifications in architecture against ARB’s criteria.