As the home building industry becomes increasingly competitive, our attitude toward customer satisfaction will need to change. Whereas it used to be a major advantage to have satisfied customers, it is now a requirement. The best home builders create avid customers — a source of differentiation you need to thrive in the competitive market.
Many builders consider a customer satisfied when the terms of the contract have been met and the customer's expectations have been filled. That way of thinking is passé. If all we do is fulfill expectations, the best we can hope for is a lukewarm response from our buyers that's absent of cooperation, support and high referrals. Is that what adds to your bottom line? Certainly not.
Remember when every diner and truck stop seemed to advertise "Good Food" on highway signs and restaurant windows? It was as if good food was a rare thing for a diner to serve.
That marketing message is harder to find because good food in restaurants is expected. Today, any restaurant that thinks it is shooting for the stars when it promotes good food isn't even leaving the ground.
Avid home buyers are more than satisfied; they are delighted and loyal. Avid home buyers are passionate about their purchase and devoted to their home builders, like avid fans for a sports team. They are ardent supporters who enthusiastically volunteer to promote your company's growth. These are the kind of customers that companies are envious to have because they bring additional value beyond the initial dollar exchange. They bring referrals, efficiency and brand awareness.
If you want to create avid home buyers, you must look for opportunities to delight customers and go beyond satisfaction. Consider this real-life example: a vertically-challenged home buyer mentioned she wouldn't be able to reach the upper kitchen cabinets in her new home, so the astute superintendent attempting to show his level of caring purchased a step stool that he left in the kitchen for her to find on closing day. It was an inexpensive wow gesture that turned an otherwise satisfied home buyer into an avid fan. The return on investment for a $7 stool can be tremendous.
Creating avid customers requires a shift in your corporate culture. Here are the keys to make it happen:
- Create an avid mission statement not a satisfying one (i.e., "We delight all buyers").
- Share your mission with everyone in the company and make sure they understand it.
- Recognize those in your company who demonstrate it, like the superintendent I described.
- Lead by example by demonstrating decisions that create avid versus satisfied customers.
- Treat your employees and trades so they, too, become avid fans of your company.
If you consistently support this approach within your company, the return is far greater than merely satisfying customers. Satisfaction is not dead; it's just one stop along the journey. Make sure your company continues along this fruitful path to realize your avid customers.
|Paul Cardis is CEO of NRS Corp., a research and consulting firm specializing in customer satisfaction for the home-building industry. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.|