Cementing Relationships

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At the end of the day, way too many of you are sneaking out the construction entrance with your lights off when you should be cruising slowly down the street you built, waving at everyone and asking that recent close on lot 137 how her youngest daughte...

September 01, 2002

 

Converting attics into livable space helps Fieldstone Communities deliver cost-effective square footage to buyers in Orange County, Calif. Vaulted ceilings and windows create an appealing environment, but the most attractive option for buyers is the price -- $70 per square foot for an additional 484 to 575 square feet of living space, depending on the plan.

At the end of the day, way too many of you are sneaking out the construction entrance with your lights off when you should be cruising slowly down the street you built, waving at everyone and asking that recent close on lot 137 how her youngest daughter likes her new school.

How as an industry did we ever convince ourselves that spending time with customers after closing is a bad idea? Are you surprised that the recent customer satisfaction survey for Professional Builder and NRS Corp.'s National Homeowner Satisfaction Awards found that 80% of home buyers questioned want to recommend their builder?

Maybe you ought to ask your buyers from earlier this year to do just that -- especially since Jacksonville, Fla., sales consultant Bill Herring says referred prospects are eight times more likely to buy than prospects who find their way into your model homes without a referral.

"I'm astonished that builders and their salespeople don't work recent customers harder for referrals," Herring says. "In most cases, all you have to do is ask for their help."

And why not? These are the people who have invested thousands of dollars to live in your product -- they're thirsting to validate that investment.

PB and NRS Corp., a Madison, Wis.-based research firm, developed the National Homeowner Satisfaction Awards to lead home builders to a better understanding of the critical role customer satisfaction plays in profitability.

The winners are:

NHS Diamond Award Winner (for highest overall score) and winner of the NHS Award for builders with 100 to 500 closings last year: Ginsburg Development Corp., Hawthorne, N.Y.

NHS Award for builders with more than 500 closings: Engle Homes/Arizona, Phoenix

NHS Excellence Awards: Village Homes, Littleton, Colo., and McStain Neighborhoods, Boulder, Colo.

These inaugural award winners work hard to nurture personal relationships between employees and customers. In most cases the sales agent takes the lead, but in all cases construction superintendents also form close bonds with buyers.

And these ties are not cut at closing. It's clear that all the winners see referral sales as the payoff for customer satisfaction. And they are not shy about asking buyers for referrals during the warranty period and beyond. Winners understand that the costs required to turn customers into raving fans end up being a fraction of the payoff in new business when you get to the bottom line.

The components of customer satisfaction measured in the NHS competition are home features, floor plan/layout, quality of materials, quality of workmanship, price/value, lot and location, sales process, lending process, options/upgrades/colors, office staff, project superintendent, walk-through, post-move-in warranty service, number of items identified for correction, and time to make corrections.

Total home buyer satisfaction for each builder is calculated as a weighted average of the company's satisfaction scores across all these categories. Survey respondents also were asked to rate their willingness to recommend their builder and how often they have actually done so. The builder's score on the crucial "would recommend" question was added to the total home buyer satisfaction score to produce the NHS combined score used to rank the builders entered from across the country.

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