The Builder of Choice

Shortages of skilled trade contractors in today's residential building boom have home builders copeting for their attention.
By Edward Caldeira, Director of Quality Services, NAHB Research Center | April 30, 1999
Shortages of skilled trade contractors in today’s residential building boom have home builders competing for their attention. Many builders have trouble getting craftsmen to show up at the job site. Despite these conditions, some builders become-or remain-the trades’ builder of choice, getting the best subcontractors whenever they need them.

These builders of choice apply customer satisfaction thinking to their trade contractors, just as they do to their home buyers. The thinking is simple: The more satisfied trade contractors are, the more they want to work for you.

Because learning facts about trade contractor satisfaction is so valuable and gathering the information is so simple, it’s a wonder why every builder doesn’t survey every trade contractor. After all, if you don’t have hard data or facts, you really don’t know where you rank as a builder of choice. Nor do you have any clues as to how to improve your operation to move in that direction.

Only the trade contractors can tell you what they think about their satisfaction. Put together a quick survey that asks about things that are important to them. Finding out the real story is a matter of changing your perspective to look at the relationship from the trade contractor’s point of view. Wouldn’t it be interesting to find out what trade contractors think about other builders? Surveys also need to capture their feelings, their willingness, or preference, for you compared with select builders in your area. No matter how good you are, if you’re not the builder of choice, you second fiddle whether you know it or not.

1998 NHQ winners Neumann Homes and Estridge Homes survey trade contractor satisfaction on at least a quarterly basis. Each collaborated with their trades to define what they need to be the builder of choice. Then they developed surveys that ask their trades to rate how they were doing on those points and how they compare with other builders.

When starting a survey program be prepared for some surprising findings.

Even though it may seem that all you hear are complaints, there are many things trade contractors really like about working with you. Even when a trade contractor rating is not as high as expected, they are telling you what you need to know.

The survey feedback should be treated as a report card on your performance, telling how well you are doing and setting clear direction for improvement. Surveys should be shared with all people the trade contractor works with in your organization. Graph the data to show trends over time. It will give feedback on progress you’ve made and direct you toward new opportunities for improvement.

Are these surveys actually worth the effort? Let actions speak louder than words. A growing number of builders, including every winner of the National Housing Quality Award, survey their trade contractors. And it is extremely rare for a builder who surveys trade contractors to ever stop doing so. The feedback is too valuable.

Request the free fax "Getting Started With Trade Contractor Surveys" for examples and implementation guidelines by calling the NAHB Research Center’s HomeBase Hotline 800/898-2842.
NAHB Research Center National Housing
Quality Program,
400 Prince George’s Blvd., Upper Marlboro, MD 20774, 800/638-8556 x610
fax 301/249-0305


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