For many businesses, including construction businesses, customer service is often thought of as either a necessary evil, or as the right thing to do. (Perhaps both at different times, depending on the business owner’s mood!) But what if you looked at customer service differently? Providing good customer service is indeed the right thing to do — we all recognize that when we’re on the receiving end of it — but it’s also a fantastic opportunity to market your business and distinguish your company from competitors.
These days, customers demand and expect good service. Since you can’t ignore customer service, you might as well think about how you can best serve your customers and also use customer service to benefit your business in the long term.
Carol Smith is an expert on customer service for builders. She teaches on the subject and has written books including Customer Service for Home Builders and Beyond Warranty: Building Your Referral Business. She says, “A successful customer service program is one of the key elements in closing sales and getting referrals.” If you have a steady stream of referrals coming in, you can reduce the amount of money you spend on advertising.
In this post, we’ll share some of Smith’s advice. If you’re interested in hearing more, here’s a podcast episode where she talks about many of these things: Mastering Home Builder Customer Service with Carol Smith
Ensure homebuyers are well-prepared before decision meetings
During the home building process, your customers will need to make lots of decisions. From big things like the floorplan to small things like paint colors. They need to be prepared in advance before they meet with a member of your sales team to go over these choices. These are not the kind of decisions that your customers can make in a few minutes. So, send your customers the information they need well in advance and have someone available to answer their questions before they meet with your salesperson.
Finally, when they’re talking with your salesperson, it’s crucial your customers not feel rushed or pressured into any decisions. Be sure to always remember that building a new home is a major life experience for your customers. It goes without saying that you’re more likely to have happy customers at the end of the home-building process if you treat them well throughout the entire home-building process.
Make sure the new home feels new in every way
When it’s time to hand over the keys and for the homeowners to move in, make sure the home is 100% ready. This doesn’t just mean obvious things like the flooring is installed and the painting is all finished. It also includes little details being taken care of. Shelves and counters have been dusted, the floors vacuumed, and the windows cleaned. Think about buying a new car — you don’t expect to have to take it into the car wash on the first drive home.
These are little things, but they can make a big difference to how happy your customers feel. Happy customers are of course more likely to leave positive Facebook or Google reviews. After a couple of weeks, have someone on your team check in with your customers and ask how they’re settling in. If they’re happy, feel free to ask them for a review. You can make Facebook or Google reviews do more marketing work by putting screenshots of them on your website.
Provide homeowner education
Carol Smith recommends providing your customers with a comprehensive homeowner guide. Make sure your customers know how to operate all the systems in their home — from the lawn sprinklers and garage door opener to the HVAC system. (If you choose to partner with ProHome, we provide your customers with home maintenance tips on our website and a booklet with home maintenance advice.)
ProHome’s homeowner education goes beyond this though. It begins with an initial walkthrough, prior to closing. On this first walkthrough with your homebuyers, while compiling the punch list, one of our new home agents local to your builds will point out to the homeowners the various features and functions of their home’s systems. We explain how to operate and maintain them properly.
If homeowners know how to get the best out of their home, they’re more likely to be happy with it. This means they’re more likely to leave positive reviews, more likely to make referrals — and less likely to call you on a hot Sunday afternoon because they don’t know how to operate the air conditioning!
Manage your warranty well
Whether you manage your own warranty, or whether you work with a partner like ProHome to manage it, Smith says, “Warranty work is part of your marketing program.”
This does not mean you’re obligated to fix every little thing a homeowner asks you to. But it does mean you need to do your best to make sure your customers know what is covered by your warranty and what isn’t. It also means that you need to have some kind of workable process for managing warranty work. Winging it can lead to losing track of what’s been taken care of, and what’s still outstanding — and delays mean unhappy customers.
Smith recommends this four step process:
- Input: Find out exactly what the customer wants fixed.
- Analyze: Is it covered by warranty? Should you fix it yourself or should you arrange for a trade to fix it? Or is it home maintenance that the owners should take care of themselves?
- Respond: Explain that it’s a home maintenance issue, or else complete the repair in a timely way.
- Follow up: Document everything — all phone calls, all the issues the homeowners have raised, all the repairs in progress and completed. (This information can help you address recurring items so you see them less frequently in the future.)
A warranty management partner, such as ProHome, takes care of these four steps for you. Your homeowners can call us day or night, seven days a week. We ask them to send us photos of the issue so we can determine whether or not it’s covered by your warranty. (If it’s not possible to make the determination from the photos, one of our new home agents local to you will go out to the property to take a look.)
If the issue isn’t covered by your warranty, we’ll let you know in case you’d like to do a good faith repair. We’ll inform your homeowners either way (so there’s no need for you to be the bearer of bad news!). We can give homeowners tips if it turns out to be a home maintenance task.
If the issue is covered by warranty, we’ll arrange for one of your subs to go out an make the repair. We keep the records of every step of the process for 11 years — providing peace of mind for you and your customers.
Keeping customers happy after a sale should be a customer service goal for any business. For home builders, because referrals are typically an important source of marketing, after-sale customer service is arguably an especially important goal. And, like it or not, a big part of after-sale customer service for builders is warranty work. This means that excellent warranty service should be a crucial part of any home builder’s marketing strategy.
As Carol Smith puts it:“Builders don’t elevate warranty service to the level it deserves. It is truly where referrals develop and if builders don’t pay close attention to their home buyers’ warranty experience, they’re leaving money on the table.”
*If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of home builder’s warranty management, check out this post: What are the benefits of home builder’s warranty management?If you’d like to talk about how ProHome can help you provide better customer service, give Matt a call at (316) 706-0368 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.*If you know a builder who might find this post helpful, please share it.Zena Ryder is a freelance writer who writes about the construction industry. You can find her at Zena, Freelance Writer and on LinkedIn.