Build Happy Customers, First and Foremost

Shamrock Builders would rather walk away from a sale than work with a client they know they won’t please.

By Meghan Stromberg, Senior Editor | August 31, 2003
George Geiger (left) and Greg O'Herren rely on technology to keep customer communication current.

Shamrock would rather walk away from a sale than work with a client they know they won't please.


If you want extensive protocol and an 8-inch-thick binder of company processes, you might not find it in the Indianapolis office of Greg O'Herren and George Geiger. The cousins run Shamrock Builders with a total focus on building happy customers while building about 30 quality homes a year.

Shamrock's selling process begins with listening, letting the client set the pace, and then designing and sticking to a time line on which both parties can rely. A single customer liaison manages expectations, taking her cue from the buyers as she keeps them informed and involved.

Shamrock really shines after it builds the home. The warranty service manager does the final walk with the buyer and superintendent to avoid information crisscross, O'Herren says. The warranty service manager knows exactly what punchlist the buyer agreed to with the super and the agreed-upon course of action.

As warranty items come in, the receptionist logs them into Punchlist Manager, an off-the-shelf computer program. Then she sends an e-mail describing the issue to the warranty service manager's BlackBerry, a portable e-mail system. He's charged with responding within 24 hours but usually does so sooner. He responds to emergencies in minutes, and after hours, when a phone prompt instructs customers to leave a message, the system simultaneously pages the warranty service manager.

Within 30 days of closing, the warranty service manager walks the house again and then schedules all subcontractors to come on the same day, if possible, along with a warranty technician.

NRS Award:
Shamrock Builders
Headquarters: Indianapolis
Communities: 3, plus scattered sites
Product: Detached single-family homes priced from $350,000 to $850,000
2002 closings: 30
2002 revenue: 13.5 million
Employees: 18
Chief executive, Residential Division: George Geiger

Award classification: Small-volume builder
NRS Index score: 181.96
Homeowner satisfaction: 87.96
Recommend scaled score: 94.00

100% of homeowners "would recommend."
75% had made at least 1 positive recommendation
25% had made 1-3 referrals.
50% had made 4-6 referrals.
0% had made 7-9 referrals.
0% had made 10 or more referrals.
Average referrals per surveyed customer: 3.5
Expectation difference: 0 (current satisfaction minus expected satisfaction)

"Every time we go out there, we inconvenience the client, and in their eyes, that's a problem," says O'Herren, who learned from past customers that multiple trips for warranty items and not keeping people in the loop don't score any points. "Most of these people really want to work with you, but they get frustrated when they don't know what's going on."

Even after the warranty expires or with a problem unrelated to Shamrock, the company does what it can to help, either by fixing it or helping the homeowner locate and coordinate service with a vendor. Even 15 years later, Geiger says, Shamrock responds to customer needs because it still wants its customers to be happy - and to talk to others about the Shamrock experience.

"Builders tend to focus on product more than emotion," O'Herren says. "We really focus on how people feel. We're not in the building houses business, we're in the people business."

Top Five Difference-Makers
  1. Completed work in timely manner (warranty service): 94.00 (average: 63.63)
  2. Quality repairs and service (warranty service): 94.00 (average score: 64.43)
  3. Began work in timely manner (warranty service): 92.00 (average: 65.93)
  4. Immediately contacted to schedule (warranty service): 92.50 (average: 67.20)
  5. Adequately cleaned after work (warranty service): 94.00 (average: 69.07)