I Hear and I Forget

October 8, 2010

“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” — Confucius

It is that time of year. Customer satisfaction and quality ratings are shot against the sky in 17 markets, once again bringing attention to the voice of the home buying customer. Each year, these ratings, like 4th of July fireworks, illuminate headlines in the media. It is a beautiful moment in time when the home building industry all seems to look at the same displays, if only for an instant.

There are two major takeaways from this year’s results. Most notably, there appears to be a resurgence of the private, or at least the more locally-focused home builders. This year, the majority (nine of the 17 Customer Satisfaction “Award Recipients”) were private home builders — a big jump from last year. And five of the remaining eight “Award Winners” operate with more of a local mindset than the super national builders. 

Conspicuously, there were several of last year’s Customer Satisfaction “Awards Winners” left off the podium. Could this signal home buyer preference for a more intimate relationship with their home builder? Could this be the results of past customer satisfaction focus on the part of builders, who may be more heavily invested in their local communities?  It is hard to tell from the data, but I’d like to think this is the case. Clearly, there is a movement away from the “McMansion” makers and toward intimacy of both the home and the experience.

The real test will be what builders do with the recent results in those 17 markets, and more interestingly what the builders will do in the hundreds of markets not surveyed or reported. One thing is for sure: hearing the customer is but a small piece of an effective “Voice of the Customer” program. It is far more important to actually understand what the customers are saying, and then DO something about it — kind of like the wise words of Confucius. To learn more about effective “Voice of the Customer” programs and strategies, read my article in the November 2010 issue of Professional Builder, to be mailed in mid-November.

Charlie Scott has more than 30 years of first-hand home building experience, much of it in senior management positions with an award-winning, nationally recognized Midwest builder. Currently, he's director of Woodland, O’Brien & Scott for Constellation Homebuilder Systems. Scott helps North American home builders grow their own customer-centric cultures, pursue operational excellence, and increase referral sales. Write him at charlies@woodlandobrien.com.