Strong Customer Care Helps You Build Your Brand
By Steven Lewkowitz, Pivotal Corporation
The next in a series about customer relationship management.
For Atlanta-based Beazer Homes, managing the customer-care process consistently is critical to its branding.
“Open communication, responsiveness and respect are the core elements of the Beazer Homes brand promise,” said Ken Dohrn, the company's national warranty manager. “We use our CRM (customer relationship management) system to ensure that every home buyer’s experience with Beazer Homes — both pre- and post-sale — lives up to this brand promise.”
Yes, branding is important because a brand is not simply a name, jingle or logo that the public associates with a company. It’s the totality of a customer’s impressions — every experience, interaction and association the consumer has with the company.
Likewise, brand strength is not a function of flashy, big-budget advertising. A great slogan or slick marketing campaign might draw prospects, but if the customer’s experience with the company fails to match the brand expectations created by the advertising, their trust will be lost and the brand will lose credibility.
What are the dividends of a strong brand reinforced by a complementary end-to-end customer experience?
In a crowded, bustling market, brand strength and exceptional customer experiences differentiate one builder from the next and help you gain a competitive edge. Furthermore, loyal, satisfied customers hold the secret to repeat sales even in a less vigorous market.
Beyond that, builders with strong brands can often charge more for their products, which contributes directly to the bottom line. Consumers will pay more for the quality they associate with a trusted brand — and on one of the most important purchases they’ll ever make, there’s even more incentive for home buyers to pay extra for a brand they trust.
Orchestrating the Brand Experience
This means that every interaction a home buyer has with your company has the potential either to add to or detract from the value of your brand. This fact reinforces the critical importance of carefully orchestrating the entire customer experience from end to end.
Home builders simply cannot afford to leave this to chance. Merely hoping that a customer will walk away from their home buying experience with the right impression of your firm is not enough.
Buying a house is a major life event. This is all the more reason to ensure that every step of the home buying experience is one that customers enjoy and remember positively. Purchasing a home is a significant commitment that requires trust in the home builder and the quality of its products. A strong brand, reaffirmed by a satisfying customer experience, can go a long way toward establishing the confidence home buyers need to make a purchase — or to refer their friends.
Customer Relationship Management
This is where customer relationship management (CRM) systems can make a big difference to strategic-thinking home builders. A CRM system — with information on every customer interaction — can drive a planned customer experience and strengthen your brand.
The primary goal of CRM is simple: to plan, coordinate and support interactions with customers to create a consistent, winning customer experience that stretches from the first encounter with the potential buyer through the entire customer life cycle. It’s what my company calls “creating customers for life.”
Let’s look at how this can work, with a particular eye to branding.
What’s Behind the Hype?
Many builders have grown through acquisition, which can pose a challenge for branding efforts. With disparate divisions and departments, sometimes dispersed across the country, it can be hard to maintain a consistent company image.
A CRM system with a strong marketing-automation suite can remedy this easily, by putting branded campaign templates in the hands of all company divisions, ensuring consistent reinforcement of brand image and messaging in all communications.
Meanwhile, as online channels are an increasingly important facet of marketing for home builders, a CRM system captures information from prospects — whether from Homebuilder.com , NewHomeSource, a builder’s presentation center or advertising or promotional campaigns — in a central location.
Delivering on Your Brand’s Promise
Although marketing is important to communicating brand value, delivering on your company’s brand promise becomes even more important once a marketer passes a qualified lead to the sales force.
- How quickly do your home sales professionals follow up on leads?
- To what extent are they able to tailor and personalize the experience for the home buyer based on knowledge gained through earlier marketing touch points?
- How knowledgeable are they about the kinds of options and preferences about which a buyer has expressed interest?
- How quickly can they configure and reconfigure quotes to meet buyer needs?
A CRM system puts all the information home sales professionals need to personalize the buying experience right at their fingertips — enabling structured, consistent sales processes that reflect the corporate brand and quality standards, as well as industry best practices.
Take the Guesswork Out of Customer Care
Once the sale is made, the deal is not done. If you want to strengthen your brand, you must ensure that buyers receive exactly what they paid for, and that they remain satisfied with your home after the sale.
CRM systems can take the guesswork out of customer care by regulating and coordinating the steps involved in post-sale service, including home inspection and warranty management. Because the CRM system tracks all interactions with the customer in a central location, home owners receive consistent, informed, personalized service — no matter who answers their call.
Meanwhile, the builder maintains a comprehensive history of all work and issues surrounding a home, which is invaluable information if a home is sold while still under warranty.
By maintaining excellent customer care and regular communications well after the sale of a home, the builder is able to reinforce its brand continually and to build lasting relationships with home owners. When home buyers consider their second or subsequent home purchases, the builder with which they have an ongoing relationship and associate a trusted brand is an obvious choice.
Builders also can leverage CRM features to assess their brand performance. Some CRM systems have built-in survey functionality builders can use to take regular brand “temperature readings,” asking customers and prospects alike how they feel about the firm and their experience with it. This kind of feedback loop ensures a builder is communicating and delivering on its brand promise effectively, while also allowing it to take quick corrective action when needed.
A robust CRM system can help home builders design and implement outstanding customer experiences that reflect and reinforce branding from end to end, nurturing brand strength throughout the customer life cycle and creating the proverbial “golden goose” — loyal, happy customers poised for high-value referrals and low-cost repeat sales.
Steven Lewkowitz is professional services director of the Homebuilding and Real Estate Group at Pivotal Corporation. Pivotal offers the industry-leading Pivotal Homebuilder Front Office. For more information, e-mail Lewkowitz, or call him at 732-297-4060.
More Branding Information at NAHB's BizTools
NAHB members can read more about branding and brand management, including "Make and Keep the Promise of Your Brand: 10 Ways and Raising the Bar on Brand Identity," as well as other articles from a series about customer relationship management by going online to www.nahb.org/biztools.
‘Customer Service for Home Builders’ Available at BuilderBooks.com
“Customer Service for Home Builders,” available through BuilderBooks.com, gives you the tools you need to create an effective customer service program: forms, checklists, documents and a resource guide. You will learn how to start managing customers’ experiences — instead of just reacting to issues that customers raise. To view or purchase this publication online, click here, or call 800-223-2665.
NAHB Has More Than 170 Resources to Help You Run Your Business More Profitably
Go to NAHB's Business Management Tools Web pages (available to members only) for instant access to more than 170 timesaving, moneymaking and cost-cutting business resources to help you run your business more profitably. Get guidance on accounting and financial management, business strategy, computers and information technology, customer service, human resources and more.
Resources are added weekly, so bookmark www.nahb.org/biztools to go directly to these vital business management resources.
Local and state home builders associations can link directly to www.nahb.org/biztools from their Web site and give their members instant access to these resources. It will make your HBA's Web site the place to go for the information and guidance that members need to succeed.
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The NAHB University of Housing Offers Courses and Designation Programs
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