Phase 3 Progress Photos

Al Hamra recently emailed some photos showing construction progress of Phase 3. In case you haven’t seen them, here they are (click on the images to enlarge):

royal-breezeShowing construction on parking for RB1 and RB2, piling for RB3 and RB4, and town houses

rb-1Construction of Royal breeze 1 parking

rb-2Construction of Royal Breeze 2 parking

gloverLooking at RB2 (and RB1 ?) construction from ground level (photo courtesy of glover published on skyscraper Al Hamra forum)

Towards Better Communication

We received a phone call from John Mathew on 17th January in response to our recent follow up letter.  It was a pleasant surprise that the manager of Corporate Strategy & Development at Al Hamra Estates took the trouble to telephone, even though it was mainly to offer reassurance and solace, rather than agreeing to change the terms of the payment schedule for the Royal Breeze.

During the conversation John Mathew stated that he

    • acknowledged the importance of good customer service, and said he was glad that we were raising our concerns with Al Hamra Estates.
    • was going to raise our request for the revised payment schedule with management.  He also stressed that he felt it was unlikely there would be any change.
    • will be looking to install two cameras on the site to allow us get some idea of construction progress.
    • stated that there was a late delivery clause in place with the companies doing the construction, and that this was going to be rigorously enforced to keep construction on track.
    • was looking to send out a construction progress update to all Royal Breeze investors in the near future.

Whilst the phone call appears to more of a damage limitation exercise, nevertheless it is encouraging to see that Al Hamra Estates is making some effort to offer us better service.

Let us continue with our efforts to secure better communication and excellent customer service from Al Hamra Estates.  As more investors join the group it will become more difficult for Al Hamra Estates to ignore our concerns…..

Follow Up Letter

To: John Mathew, Manager Corporate Strategy & Development, Al Hamra Estates

Dear Mr Mathew,

Whilst it is reassuring to know that work on RB1 and RB2 has started, we are disappointed with the level of detail in your progress report.  From your statement that the ‘work is in full swing on the structures of RB 1 & 2’, we are still none the wiser – does this mean the walls are going up, or that the foundation been completed, or that level 1 has been reached, etc? We would greatly appreciate a more detailed progress report with photos.

We understand that projects are unavoidably affected by issues around resourcing of materials, workforce shortages, power supply issues, etc.  Our only request is that if there are changes in design, timescales, facilities in the resort, etc. that we be kept fully informed, rather than left wondering what is happening with the development. Many of us who purchased our units over 2 years ago were led to believe that completion would be end of 2008.  During further correspondence with Omar Obeid in Jan 2008 we were told that ‘the expected completion date for the Royal Breeze buildings will be between Dec 2009 and Jun 2010’ by him.  We are now being told that completion may not happen till the end of 2010.

We would also like to remind you that many of us have already paid 60% of the purchase price, with another 10% being due at the end of this month.  We feel that this 60% payment should be more than sufficient to pay for any work on RB1 and RB2 at this early stage of the construction.  Many of us are struggling to make the next payment due to the financial downturn, so would like to repeat our request that 50% (or 40% for those who have already paid 60%) be payable on completion.  We would be grateful if you are able to make a strong representation on our behalf to the General Manager, Romain Felber asking that the payment schedule be revised to these terms.  We hope Al Hamra Estates will look favourably on our request.

One question that we would like answered urgently is that if an investor is unable to make the next payment for the Royal Breeze, what the consequences are, and what understanding / help Al Hamra Estates will offer in such circumstances, given the global financial crisis.

We have many further questions that we would like you to address, such as standard of finish, fixtures and fittings, maintenance charges, etc.  If you are agreeable, we would like to suggest setting up a regular communication with you, perhaps once a month or bimonthly, which would give us the opportunity to ask questions, raise concerns and make suggestions as a group.  Be reassured that we would endeavour to make this communication professional and constructive and avoid generating any bad publicity.

In conclusion, we would be grateful for a more detailed progress report, an agreement to amend the payment schedule as requested, and consideration of our request for a regular communication.

We look forward to your reply.

Response From Al Hamra Estates

From: John Mathew, Manager Corporate Strategy & Development, Al Hamra Estates

Compliments of the season!!!

As always it is a pleasure to see your mail, as it gives us an opportunity to review our efforts.

Since my last update i.e. a month ago to you, I take pleasure in informing you that substantial work has been done on the phase 3 projects. Work is on in full swing on the structure for RB 1 & 2. Pile testing have commenced on 3, 4, & 5. Normally there is 3 months testing period. Once this is done we

will have the structure work started on RB3 and the podium on 4&5. Apart from this more than 200 type A town houses in phase3 are almost in the finishing stage (70%). Our major man power is presently focused on the Type A Town houses construction. Infact, we are now considering placement of cameras on the site, to enable our customers to view the ongoing construction.

However, we are still expecting the completion of the whole phase3 including RB6 to be between end of 2009 & 4th quarter of 2010.

Regarding deferment of payment, we regret to inform you that we are currently unable to offer any scheme of payment, as we need to pay our contractors as the work is on in full swing.

While at this, I would like to take this opportunity to introduce our new General Manager Mr. Romain Felber, who has taken over from Mr. Fredric w.e.f. December 08 as the GM. All I can do at this point is to send your request for deferment of payment to him for consideration.

Should you require any further information, do let us know.

Thanks & Best Regards

Group Letter to Al Hamra Estates

To: John Mathew, Manager Corporate Strategy & Development, Al Hamra Estates

Dear Mr Mathew,

First of all we would like to give you and all staff at Al Hamra Estates our best wishes for the New Year.

We, as investors in Al Hamra Village are aware that the next payment for Royal Breeze owners is due very soon. As you know, the current global economic downturn is affecting all of us, including the UAE property market which has not escaped the effects of the recession.

Many big property companies are taking positive steps of supporting investors such as offering flexible or extended payment plans. For example, in an article in GulfNews [14 Nov 2008] Peter Penhall, CEO of Gowealthy said, “Since there is a liquidity shortage and banks are reducing mortgages, it is important to offer flexible payment terms to end-users so that they are not forced to seek bank loans or mortgage finance.” Your attention is also drawn to another article in TheNational [30 Oct 2008] where Sharjeel Hassan Vijdani, vice president at Habib Bank AG Zurich, said the market situation called for a policy change by developers. “I would not be surprised if Emaar and others come up with soft payment plans. The market conditions dictate that”, he said.

We would appeal to you that Al Hamra Estates delay the imminent payment deadline for Royal Breeze owners from January 2009 by at least 6 months. We would also request that only 50% of the payment should be required as staged payment (or 60% who have already paid this amount), with the balance being due on handover of the unit. This would be entirely appropriate in light of the fact that construction progress of phase 3 has stalled and very little construction (apart from piling for building 1, 2 and 3) has taken place over the last 2 years.

We would also like to remind you that the vast majority of investors remain unhappy with the level of customer care and lack of communication to investors afforded by Al Hamra Estates. Why should we have to rely on fellow investors who have been fortunate to visit the project site for updates? And why indeed should we have to discuss the progress of Al Hamra based on rumours?

In a recent article in TheNational [8 Sep 2008]) Alexander McNabb, a group account director at ‘Spot On Public Relations’ highlighted the importance of online communication between investors and developers. “Most people online will appreciate the dialogue rather than silence. And if you’ve got unhappy customers, how long can you afford to simply ignore them?” he said.

We would strongly urge that Al Hamra Estates make communication and progress reporting to customers one of the highest priorities in 2009. Also be aware that are a number of websites where investors are speculating on progress and venting their frustration because they have received little or no official updates as to what is happening, here are a few:

http://www.eyeonworldwide.com
http://alhamragazette.com
http://alhamragroup.blogspot.com

It is our hope that you will make it a policy to provide regular and detailed construction progress reports to keep us informed of progress or delays. It is our understanding that both the alhamragroup.blogspot.com and the alhamragazette.com have written to you on this matter in the past, and that you have ignored their communication. It is also our understanding that there are a number of petitions in progress designed to press Al Hamra Estates for better communication and customer service.

We the investors are as keen to avoid speculation or negative comments, as we’re sure you are. We hope you will take note of our comments and concerns, and will provide a quick reply on the matter of deferring payment and on the issue of customer service. Please be advised that we are prepared to take up our case with HH Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Crown Prince and Deputy Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah.

Looking forward to your reply.

Signed by a group of investors

The Value of Customer Service

Investors from across the globe bought into the dream that was to be the ‘Al Hamra Village ‘

“… an exclusive residential and leisure resort…… a picturesque sight that is set around salt water lagoons, a championship golf course and its own marina…. allows property owners a chance to redefine the meaning of luxury living.” – www.alhamravillage.com website

We, the investors took the leap and put our faith in Al Hamra Estates LLC to deliver the dream. Needless to say, we have kept our end of the bargain by making payments on time according to the payment schedule.

But what about the developer, have they kept their end of the bargain? The short answer is that there is growing unease amongst investors, a growing realisation that we may have been duped by slick marketing. Sadly, most investors are now getting disillusioned and are very unhappy with Al Hamra Estates’ track record of customer service and intent to deliver the project on time and to specification.

It might be instructive if Al Hamra were to take note of some basic lessons on the value of customer service (taken from Amazines.com, by Murad Ali):

Lesson 1: “Quality in a service or product is not what you put into it. It is what you client or customer gets out of it” – Peter Drucker.

Large corporations sometimes start believing that they are more important than the customer. Their processes, procedures and even their name become the standard way of doing things and customers who don’t fit within these policies are just out of luck. Sprint, as well as other businesses, should continually focus on the value within their product or service. If the customer isn’t getting as much value as they are paying for then they will likely go somewhere else.

Lesson #2: “If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell 6 friends. If you make customers unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6,000 friends.” – Jeff Bezos

Each time Sprint, or a business, annoys a customer there is a chance that the customer will run out with their anger and post negative messages throughout the internet, tell their friends at work and do the company harm. Even though the situation is annoying the customer has that right because they are paying for a service and they are unhappy with that service. Therefore, it is necessary to treat your customers with the highest level of flexibility and respect.

Lesson #3: “Customers don’t expect you to be perfect. They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong.” – Donald Porter

There is no perfect service in the world today. Therefore, there will come times when mistakes will happen, a product will have a defect or there will be other issues that are not to the customers’ satisfaction. When these mistakes happen the customer calls in and is giving Sprint, or the business in question, the chance to actually solve their problem. In many cases the customer is being benevolent by giving the company this chance instead of dropping them all together. If the company can’t fix this problem, doesn’t care about this problem and treats the customer as though he or she is a nuisance they may end up losing that customer.

Lesson #4: “Being on par in terms of price and quality only gets you into the game. Service wins the game.” – Tony Alessandra

A company may have a great product or service and this is what attracts people. However, once people have purchased that product or service the company needs to show them that their service is adding value, that they are trying to solve problems and they are a partner in the person’s success. It is the service that makes your company or service different from all the other high quality and superb products available on the market.