Aiming for Satisfied Customers Is Not Good Enough
If the goal of every home builder company is to have satisfied customers, then they are aiming too low.
That blunt assessment was delivered by industry experts tasked with increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty for top national companies who shared their secrets during a Feb. 8 seminar at the International Builders’ Show in Orlando, Fla.
“Too many firms aim for satisfaction. Satisfaction better not be your goal. You have to get your customer to say ‘wow.’ This is what people are looking for,” said Paul Cardis, CEO of NRS Corporation in Madison, Wis.
Keeping customers happy adds to the bottom line by lowering the cost of sales by increasing referrals, improving margin potential through better relationships with home buyers and strengthening the builder’s brand, said Cardis.
Happy home owners are an outstanding source of referrals, he added.
Conversely, it only takes one disgruntled home owner to ruin a builder’s reputation.
Getting Attention With 10,000 Lemons
Cardis cited a horror story in which one irate home owner dumped 10,000 lemons in his front yard, which drew the attention of the local media.
“If you are not focused on customer delight, you are missing the boat in the home building industry,” he said.
To keep their customers happy, Cardis said that builders need to set realistic expectations, show genuine caring and be honest.
For example, he said if builders find that there are any delays in the construction process, rather than attempting to hide or conceal it, they should immediately let the customer know what the problem is and what they are doing to correct the situation.
Joe Donahoe, quality assurance manager for the Illinois division of Centex Homes, says builders must always do what they say.
“If you don’t set expectations with your buyers, they will set their own. And that spells trouble,” he said.
Exceeding Buyer Expectations
To increase customer satisfaction, Centex employs a system known as the Buyer Education Seminar and Timeline, or B.E.S.T. seminars, for its workers.
Donahoe says the program is designed to align departments and employees to make sure everyone in the organization knows what the other person is doing.
The system is designed to exceed what the buyer expects, reduce buyer anxiety and ultimately to boost customer satisfaction, he said.
Pulte’s Tracking System
To deliver a complete house, defect-free, on-time and with all options installed, Pulte Homes has instituted a quality assurance program that tracks all the major items that go into a home.
“In effect, this program acts as a super punch list,” said Scott Himelhoch, director of customer relations for Pulte Homes Corp.
The home superintendent generates a punch list for the trades, which Himelhoch said helps the superintendent and trades see the house through the eyes of the customer.
Using an Excel spreadsheet, Himelhoch characterized the program as a “low-tech solution with high impact results. What you measure improves,” he said.
Prior to any home-closing, the superintendent checks off each component on the quality assurance tracker to make sure that all major parts and items are installed and working.
The tracker list includes the following:
- A/C Start Up/HVAC complete
- Appliances installed
- Batch pack complete
- Blinds installed
- Block wall complete
- Cabinet punch complete
- Drywall punch complete
- Elect trim complete
- Flooring complete
- Final clean complete
- Final grade complete
- Final rake complete
- Final termite-proofing complete
- Garage door installed
- Gas meter installed
- Insulation complete
- Landscape installed
- Low voltage complete
- Options complete
- Paint final complete
- Roof complete
- Stucco punch complete
- Tops installed
- Trim carpentry complete
- Windows/screens complete
Based on more than 2,200 closings using this system in 2006, Himelhoch said that warranty costs were 12% under budget.
As for customer satisfaction, 91% rated the condition of their home at closing as outstanding, 90% said they would buy another home from Pulte and 91% would recommend a Pulte home to a friend or relative.