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.
Simonini Builders still understands the impact of a phone call from the top guy to a trade contractor to move a warranty item off a customer’s list.
For all of Simonini Builders' considerable technological and business systems prowess, CEO Alan Simonini still understands the impact of a phone call from the top guy to a trade contractor to move a warranty item off a customer's list.
Every Thursday at 7 a.m. he meets with the firm's three-person team dedicated exclusively to handling warranty issues. And with a house-by-house, item-by-item report in hand, Simonini identifies pressing issues and often starts dialing on the spot.
"Most construction guys start around 7 a.m., so I'll give people a call and check in on items that are tough to get resolved," Simonini says. "If it's a matter of air-freighting a piece over here, we do it. It's a hands-on approach."
Last year the company built 44 homes (40% custom and 60% speculative) for a demanding mix of clients ranging from professional athletes to corporate executives. In NRS Award tabulation, nearly all gave the firm high marks for responsiveness and timely completion of warranty items.
At Simonini, the warranty process begins in earnest 60 days after closing when the homeowners receive a letter asking them to write down and submit any warranty items for repair. Within 24 to 48 hours of receiving that list, the warranty department calls to schedule an appointment for all repairs to be made. A confirmation letter detailing every item set for repair then goes out. The goal? Complete all items with customer sign-off within 25 days. Usually, says Bill Saint, vice president of operations and controller, the company beats that goal by several days, but the 25-day benchmark provides a realistic time frame.
To minimize customer hassles and control costs, repair work gets scheduled for a single visit, requiring the coordinated effort of all trades needed to complete a home's list of items.
"Attacking it this way makes the process easier and more cost-effective," Simonini says. "In addition, the superintendent can be over there to make sure people show up on time. We line everybody up on the job and have the superintendent use the kitchen as a command center."
Because warranty service requests frequently extend beyond Siminoni Builders' normal scope of work, the company often takes on additional tasks. A quarter of its customers ask for and receive additional services for a charge, even though the company does not advertise this feature.
"You get buyers who really want things done," Simonini says. "You could refer them, or you could do it yourself. Someone might want their driveway pressure-washed. Others might ask us to mount a heavy picture. They can send these in to us, and it gets managed by our warranty people."
Simonini Builders used to offer a range of warranties on each home built. A one-year warranty covered just about any problem. Under the two- and five-year warranties, mechanical and structural issues remained covered. But the Simonini team concluded that the longer warranties confused buyers in terms of items covered. The solution? Keep it simple.
"We just went back to the one-year warranty, but we tell people we have the longest one-year warranty in the business," Simonini says. "And basically that means if something got screwed up from the get-go, we're probably going to fix it without asking any questions even though it is out of warranty."