Last month, I attended NAHB’s midyear meeting in Miami and had the pleasure of sitting in on a presentation by Daniel Swift, president and CEO of Des Moines-based architecture group BSB Design.
Mattamy Homes has invested time and resources trying to empower its employees to deliver outstanding customer service — not an easy task for an organization that builds more than 4,500 homes a year.
Mattamy Homes has invested time and resources trying to empower its employees to deliver outstanding customer service — not an easy task for an organization that builds more than 4,500 homes a year. Nevertheless, the Toronto, Canada-based company is the very first outside of the U.S. to meet this challenge head on and succeed in garnering an NRS Award.
As Canada's largest home builder and a top 20 largest builder in North America, Mattamy Homes has divisions in Toronto and Ottawa, along with U.S. divisions in Florida, Minnesota and North Carolina. The Halton division closed 1,200 homes in the Toronto area and has won the 2006 NRS Award for 500-plus closings.
Awards like this didn't come easy for the 28-year-old company — not until Peter Gilgan, the company's founder and CEO, surveyed its customers to identify ways to improve the customer experience. Although the company had a very good reputation in the market and Gilgan was armed with a clear picture of his company, he began to restructure the company and its processes. In 2004, Gilgan split the company into divisions — four in Canada and three in the United States. "This enabled the company to focus its efforts to better meet the needs of local markets," Gilgan says. He also recruited Mark McHone from Lennar in California to become Halton's division president and make the company a customer satisfaction leader.
Today, Mattamy Homes' Halton division primarily caters to first-time home buyers. Because of a great reputation for outstanding service, the division receives a lot of repeat business. In fact, 40 percent of its home buyers are repeat customers, McHone says, noting some customers have already moved into their third, fourth and even fifth Mattamy-built home. "Repeat business is a critical component of our success," he says. The company's survey results in this study showed that 96.3 percent of customers would recommend Mattamy to family and friends and 27.1 percent made 6 or more referrals.
While the company aimed to provide a stellar customer experience, it centered its efforts on building complete homes on time and having any problems discovered during orientation fixed before closing. But most importantly, the company "focused on building relationships," says Mark Parsons, vice president of construction.
The relationship-building process begins at Mattamy University, an educational session in which home buyers learn what they'll be experiencing at every phase of construction. The event features presentations by the actual employees building the homes, as well as the design and decor staff. "We gain a lot of respect by having our junior staff presenting. It starts the relationship off on the right foot," says Parsons.
To change how employees were delivering service at all levels, there were company-wide challenges to reach the next level. "We put together action plans and assigned responsibility and timelines," McHone says. Then the company surveyed home buyers to gauge any shift in its performance. When survey results were positive, the company celebrated. "That excitement generated more excitement," McHone says. "It almost turned it into a competition," Parsons adds.
In fact, the home buyer surveys have become a key management tool. For example, when the surveys showed that home buyers weren't satisfied with the light fixtures, McHone charged the contracts person to find better fixtures without costing the company more money. "Two months after the new light fixtures were used, our service rating on the NRS results went up two full points," McHone says.
Mattamy Homes' CEO Peter Gilgan, left, and Mark McHone, Halton division president.
Rather than deal with problems as they occur, the company tackles the root causes before they become customer satisfaction killers. "There are half a dozen things we are working on right now," McHone says.
With so many potential problems averted, the company spends more time providing personal services that differentiate it from other builders, such as the company's own street cleaner that keeps the streets tidy for current residents during construction on other homes. Mattamy also stations employees with pressure hoses at the entrance to the subdivision to spray cars clean of construction dust as their owners drive home — a novel solution to a pervasive industry problem.
In the spring, Mattamy sponsors community barbecues and hosts a Flowerfest, whereby homeowners come to the park and select plants to enhance their yards — all provided free by the builder. This event helps the communities look great and creates a sense of community spirit, which is an important issue in first-time buyer communities.
A preemptive attitude is also pervasive throughout the organization. Consider the walk-through process. For most builders, a good walk-through is one that uncovers few — if any — items that need fixing. But that's not good enough for Mattamy. "It should be a celebration; not an inspection," says Parsons. To make sure there's cause for cheer, the company performs a quality assurance inspection 20 days before closing and creates a list for the builder to fix. "The QA process looks at the home with homeowner eyes but without the homeowner," he says. Before implementing this system, Mattamy would have 20–30 items on the walk-through list. Now there are only a few items on average, if any.
Although the team is passionate about product quality, "it's all about the little things that can make a customer delighted," says McHone. Whenever a Mattamy vehicle comes to a four-way stop, the Mattamy vehicle lets the other cars through first. If they see someone carrying packages from their car, they stop and help. One time, a woman became stranded in her car on the way to dropping off her child at dance class, so the Mattamy employee took the child to dance class and called a service vehicle to tow the car and take the homeowner home.
|Question||Difference from Industry Average|
|Recommend to a Friend||+ 9.64|
|Perception of Orientation Items||+ 9.37|
|Explained Construction Process||+ 8.66|
|Responsive to Concerns||+ 8.43|
|Home Was Clean and Ready||+ 8.40|