I had the pleasure of meeting Mary Schumacher from Schumacher Homes a few years back while doing plan reviews at the International Builders' Show.
Home Finishes Redefines Custom Service for Builders
When passion and necessity collide the result can be potent.
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, or
- 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 request 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.