CRM Can Help Build Quality Customer Relationships
Leveraging the right software solutions and Internet communication can provide a cost-effective method to maintain quality customer relationships
Within the building industry, the concept of customer service is a bit hazy. Some builders don’t see the value in maintaining active relationships with customers past the sales cycle. Others actively continue to work with customers long after the contracts are signed in the hopes of finding repeat business.
And yet, the simple truth is that the value of customer service for builders and developers can’t be overestimated.
“Providing a more personal touch by using traditional customer service techniques of prompt replies, active communication and attention to detail does provide measurable return-on-investment (ROI) impact in referrals and repeat business,” explains Dave Clements, president and CEO of Lasso Data Systems, a provider of customer relationship management (CRM) software to the real estate industry. “Building those relationships using strong, durable and quality ‘materials’ is just as important in many ways as building an exceptional home.”
Today’s technologies offer a cost-effective path toward building strong customer relationships. In the current economic downturn, building and maintaining those relationships is more important than ever.
The following are three areas in which the right technology can help support effective customer communication and relations:
More and more often, a community’s Web site is a prospect’s first contact with a project. Whether the lead is gathered through the Web or through a sales center visit, collecting e-mails creates an ever-growing database of opportunities for communication.
E-mailing prospects is more than just a powerful marketing tool — e-mails provide a constant, steady opportunity to communicate with customers and maintain that critical relationship via low-cost, high-impact means.
Even better, e-mails can be tracked and measured down to each click.
“Our agents have realized that we can send an e-mail out to a thousand people, determine that 600 prospects viewed the e-mail and see that 30 of them forwarded the e-mail,” explains Carolyn Gladwell, vice president for marketing and sales for CamWest Development, a new-home builder based in Kirkland, Wash.
When sending two e-mails promoting a community, Gladwell said, “we found that a buyer who had been sitting on the fence for six months had forwarded both of the e-mails we sent.” At a sales meeting discussing the e-mails, the agent said she thought that the buyer had lost interest long ago. The e-mail tracking changed her mind and “she said she knew who her first phone call would be after the meeting.”
At first glance, proper inventory management is more of a benefit to the builder than to the customer. However, there are many customer benefits in having accurate, detailed inventory information available at the click of a mouse.
“For a sales executive, having that inventory information at hand and updated in real time is a powerful and underrated tool in adjusting pricing. The information helps assure that each buyer gets the fairest deal on their home possible,” says Clements. “The right customer relationship management software will support inventory management and provide a high level of detail in tracking performance of a project over time.”
“We use inventory management to track every detail of unit sales and to manage pricing, upgrades and price changes from one central system that is accessible anytime, anywhere,” says Cameron McNeill, president and CEO of MAC Marketing Solutions, a Canadian-based marketing and sales firm that specializes in presale and launch strategies for large-scale residential and resort property developments.
While customer relationships are typically placed under the overall heading of “customer service” and usually dedicated to a specific department within the organization, every interaction with a prospect or buyer is an opportunity for customer service. Consequently, the relationship with the customer actually stretches across the organization to include every person who comes into contact with a customer through the life of the relationship.
CRM software helps track a customer’s relationship across an organization and, in the case of WestStone Properties, which builds home in the central part of the United States, CRM software is being used to maintain a single, comprehensive database of all the company’s customers.
“It’s online, so everybody has access to it,” says Michelle Mackay, vice president of marketing for WestStone. “Our policy is that all communication with customers has to go through our CRM software. It’s really all-inclusive.”
“Every single person in this office has access to it, to a certain degree. It’s our single go-to communication center. We can have a long-term relationship with a client from the day we meet them to the day they move in, which is important,” says Mackay.
The bottom line is that technology is there to support exceptional customer service. Using the right applications can streamline the process and provide substantial measurable benefits for builders and customers alike.
Carol Ruiz is vice president of public relations for red rocket LA, a marketing and public relations firm based in Culver City, Calif. that delivers targeted and integrated communications for clients ranging from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies. Ruiz has nearly 20 years experience in real estate-related public relations. For more information, e-mail the company, call 310-841-0994, or visit www.redrocketla.com.
Tax Credit Web Site Looks at Opportunity of a Lifetime
Builders and other industry professionals can help spur home sales by referring prospective first-time home buyers to www.federalhousingtaxcredit.com. The NAHB Web site provides detailed information on the $8,000 federal tax credit for first-time home buyers included in the economic stimulus legislation signed into law by President Obama.
Consumers can use the Web site to find information on the tax credit – including a detailed question and answer section. It also includes information about other housing-related and small business measures in the legislation and a number of home-buying resources for consumers.
Spanish Version Also Available Online
A Spanish version of this increasingly popular Web site is also available to provide detailed information on the tax credit to Spanish-speaking first-time home buyers.
Industry professionals are encouraged to highlight either tax credit Web site when marketing to their potential first-time home buyer market.
‘ValueMatch Selling for Home Builders’ Available at BuilderBooks.com
“ValueMatch Selling for Home Builders,” available through BuilderBooks.com, presents a selling process that focuses on selling feelings and appealing to prospective buyers’ emotional need to buy a new home in today’s market rather than product.
Learn how to build rapport with prospective home buyers, meet their needs, make powerful presentations that are focused on their values and go for the close.
To view or purchase this publication online, click here, or call 800-223-2665.
‘Customer Service for Home Builders’ Available at BuilderBooks.com
“Customer Service for Home Builders,” available through BuilderBooks.com, provides the tools need to add new life to a customer service program.
The publication includes forms, checklists, documents and a resource guide.
To view or purchase this publication online, click here, or call 800-223-2665.
Subscribe to Sales + Marketing Ideas Magazine for Cutting-Edge Information
For additional cutting-edge sales and marketing information, subscribe to NAHB’s Sales + Marketing Ideas magazine (www.smimagazine.com).
Click here to learn about membership benefits of the National Sales and Marketing Council and the Institute of Residential Marketing.