The cover story of Time’s July 14 issue is a 39-page special report, “The Smarter Home.” Naturally, I had to read it.
The ABCs of Customer Service
Think of home building’s cutting edge. Most people think of innovative design, alternative construction methods or smart land plans.
Think of home building’s cutting edge. Most people think of innovative design, alternative construction methods or smart land plans. Most people in the industry don’t even think of superior customer service, which can be a mistake.
"Cutting edge where we build is superior customer care," said Ed Deisher, sales and marketing director for Iacobucci Homes, a Fortress Company. "We looked at the level of competition in our market, and the one area overlooked by nearly every builder is customer service."
To stake its claim to market leadership, Iacobucci Homes has developed a customer care program that will be its emphasis throughout the year. Based in Havertown, Pa., Iacobucci builds throughout suburban Philadelphia and South Jersey.
"While excellent customer care has always been crucial to our success, our new program communicates this to our buyers in a straightforward and helpful way," explained Frank Iacobucci Jr., senior vice president. "We want to make home buying a positive experience from day one.
An Inside Job
Iacobucci created a multi-sectioned binder in-house. A team of people from every department in the company met bi-monthly for a 10-month period to outline the sections and determine the content necessary to anticipate - rather than just answer - buyer’s questions and concerns. "They are the real heroes of this process," said Deisher. "They are the ones in direct contact with our customers and were the best people to determine what cutting-edge customer service means to our buyer."
The binder is divided into seven sections. The introduction walks buyers through the new home process, from model visit through mortgage approval, construction, closing and warranty. A flow-chart details the steps and approximate time frame for each stage. The same document outlines the builder’s responsibility at each step as well as the buyer’s.
"Buying a new home is a major decision for nearly every person or family," explained Deisher. "We’ve found our buyer is more confident and relaxed throughout the process if we can help them understand and plan their involvement up front."
Much of Iacobucci Homes’ customer care manual is devoted to the company’s warranties and service, a major concern for every home buyer. In the binders, customers receive home maintenance information for all of the major systems in the house, as well as information on how to care for paint, woodwork, carpeting and other flooring, cabinetry, countertops, windows and doors. Simple maintenance concerns for every part of the home, from the roof to the foundation, sidewalks to downspouts, is included.
"We want buyers to understand what our responsibilities are and how we will meet them," said senior vice president Ray Iacobucci. Included in the binder are all the forms a buyer might need to initiate service in the home, as well as contact information for any contractor that worked on the house.
Closing The Gap
While Iacobucci Homes introduced the manual only six months ago, Deisher said he already sees its effect on his sales team and in the marketplace.
|Iacobucci Homes includes this simple flow chart in its employee-produced Customer Care Manual to answer and ease buyer anxiety early in the new home purchase process.
"Our salespeople love it. They go through every aspect of the manual with each and every buyer. Putting everything in writing adds a whole new level of credibility for the company and the sales associate. It’s something unique in the marketplace that works for us and for our customers."