The cover story of Time’s July 14 issue is a 39-page special report, “The Smarter Home.” Naturally, I had to read it.
Hearts of Gold
When additional housing was needed to accommodate the growing number of terminally ill chilcren and their families who visit Give Kids the World Village in Kissimmee, Fla., it seemed only a miracle would get the job done.
When additional housing was needed to accommodate the growing number of terminally ill children and their families who visit Give Kids The World (GKTW) Village in Kissimmee, Fla., it seemed only a miracle would get the job done.
In the end, all it took was the dedication of a group of good-hearted builders from across central Florida, the Master Custom Builders Council (MCBC), to speed construction of 21 new villas at the facility dedicated to making children’s wishes a reality. Through their efforts, the foundation was able to save over $1.5 million in construction costs for its 16-acre expansion.
"They literally did whatever was necessary to get each villa built," says MCBC executive director Dixie Goolsby. The builders rallied their own subcontractors and made use of donated materials to complete the ambitious project.
Professional Builder is honoring the 35-member Master Custom Builder Council with a 1999 Professional Achievement Award for its outstanding effort in facilitating the completion of 21 new villas at the Give Kids The World Village, making it possible for them to host an additional 1600 families a year.
Founded 13 years ago, MCBC provides a forum for custom home builders to disseminate ideas and discuss concerns unique to their particular market. MCBC, headquartered in Winter Park, Fla., promotes integrity, quality and craftsmanship in the home building industry. Membership dues and special event sponsorships support the organization.
Although they are rivals in the highly competitive luxury home market in Florida’s booming central counties, MCBC members recognize that their cooperative efforts benefit themselves, the industry and the public as well.
"This is a very service-oriented group," says Goolsby, "They really believe that they’ve been blessed by their success in business and want to give that back to the community."
In fact, when a member joins MCBC, he or she makes a pledge to participate in the community service projects promoted by the Council.
Give Kids The World provides no-expense, six-day "dream" vacations for terminally ill children, aged 3 to 18, and their families to sunny central Florida. This remarkable endeavor is made possible through the assistance of countless volunteers, as well as private and corporate donations. For example, theme parks in the Orlando area provide GKTW guests free admission, and have their characters visit the Village weekly. Local businesses, shops, restaurants, even car rental facilities, donate products and services.
Founded in 1986, GKTW originally depended on local hotels to provide lodging for the children and their families who were referred to the program. As the program grew, the Give Kids The World Village made it possible to house most visitors in the same location.
When passion and necessity collide the result can be potent. Ned Seawell (right) and Mike Giosso can document the effect. Both men were working for a large California home builder when that state’s economy—and housing in particular—hit the wall. Knowing that their days in the company’s customer service department were limited, Seawell and Giosso had two options:
- A mass mailing of resumes to every other builder in the state, none of which were hiring in 1991.
- Combined their knowledge about customer service and create a new kind of company.
Thankfully, the latter course of action was chosen and the result is Home Finishes, Inc., a San Ramon, Calif.-based company dedicated to redefining customer service in the home building industry. By combining state-of-the-art technology, a smorgasbord of service programs and a thoroughly trained, well compensated and highly motivated team of service professionals, Home Finishes promises its home builder clients more satisfied homebuyers at a lower cost.
For rewriting the rules of service work, and improving a builder’s ability to satisfy customers, Professional Builder presents Home Finishes its Professional Achievement Award for innovation in customer service.
“What we’ve done is create a system,” says president Mike Giosso. “We’ve trained our people to work within that system and in the process brought some consistency to the new home ownership experience.” Specifically, Home Finishes offers its volume builder customers (most build 100 homes or more per year) three levels of service:
- New Home Finishing: Employees trained and rated to do new home finishing take over for the builder when a home is 96% complete. These associates complete a systemized and detailed scope of services that ensures a buyer-ready home. “We prepare the house so that when buyers come to see their home for the first time they realize it’s complete and that they have gotten value for their purchase,” explains Giosso. “The builder gets value from us because he now has a delighted homeowner.”
- Warranty Service: An Internet-based information system streamlines buyer repair requests during the one-year warranty period. Owners phone in a service request to Home Finishes. An administrator enters the reque
st into the buyer’s file in an online, real-time database that is accessible by the homeowner, builder and all subcontractors.
"Our information system eliminates the game of chase," explains Giosso. "We all know where to get information and we’re all accountable because the customer is in the loop."
- 2/10/20: This offering includes all the elements of the first two, but Home Finishes’ manpower handles all customer repairs. The company guarantees that it will schedule an appointment with the homeowner in two days, fix any problem its own crews can handle in 10 days and any work it must subcontract in 20 days.
In rolling out its service offering to Los Angeles late in 1999, Seawell says the most common builder reaction has been, ‘What don’t you do?’ Home Finishes’ new approach to customer service may be the industry’s answer to an age-old problem.