How do you forge a relationship with your home buyers that makes them remember the value in doing business with you? In other words, what does your company do to "wow" customers throughout the building process and develop intense customer loyalty? Most builders I speak with don't have an answer.
Do you? You might say, "We provide the best experience," or "We have the best service," or "We have the best quality of materials and workmanship in our homes."
Your competitors say the same things.
One of the best ways to create customer satisfaction and loyalty is to offer a unique product or service that impresses your customers and differentiates you from your competitors. This wow factor demonstrates your ability to be original and special, without tooting your horn about it.
Any company that shines in customer service - be it Southwest Airlines, Nordstrom or Lakewood Homes - does many things well but usually excels in a particular category. These areas of excellence happen by design but appear to be just SOP - standard operating procedure.
To develop your wow factor, select one thing you do or can do better than any other home builder in your area. Master it throughout your organization and make it part of your SOP.
Walt Goodridge, author of Turn Your Passion Into Profit and The Tao of Wow, includes a wow factor in his formula for success: Passion + Personality + Talents + History + Lifestyle + Wow Factor = Profit. As he explains, "If you create and market a product or service through a business that is in alignment with your personality, capitalizes on your history, incorporates your experiences, harnesses your talents, optimizes your strengths, complements your weaknesses, honors your life's purpose and moves you toward the conquest of your own fears, there is absolutely no way that anyone in this or any other universe can offer the same value that you do."
To a large extent, your wow factor represents you and your staff. Many experts believe that a wow factor's strength is directly proportional to company growth and referral levels, the highest form of customer loyalty.
A Fresh Approach
A wow factor makes a business so unique that the value it brings to a customer is measurable and either unique or at least difficult for others to duplicate. For many home builders, developing a wow factor requires a new way of looking at customer relations.
When developing your wow factor, shun preconceived notions of what customers do and do not want. Instead, ask them - both homeowners who bought from you and those who didn't. Only then can you begin to know what customers truly need and creatively find ways to help them with that need.
But it will take more than just research. It also will take your staff time to examine the results and creatively deliver a unique wow that customers really want.
To create an effective wow factor, you must know what the competition is doing. There's little point in creating a wow factor that duplicates what the guy across the street does. The only way to make sure yours is special is to do more research. Check out the competition and read about other companies on the cutting edge of their markets.
A successful wow factor surprises customers, even though you planned it all along. So don't let the cat out of the bag by advertising this special aspect of your company. Save it for that special moment that surprises customers. For example:
- Shamrock Builders in Indianapolis answers home buyer questions within minutes or hours rather than days or weeks. Shamrock doesn't promote this policy to customers but delivers this level of service every day. This might become the industry standard, but today it is not, so Shamrock shines with its customers.
- During its 30-day inspections of new homes, Pulte Homes' Phoenix division checks the air filter in the HVAC system. Most homeowners haven't thought to change it yet, so Pulte not only changes it but also leaves a box of free filters. Although the gift is relatively inexpensive, the gesture impresses homeowners.
- Ausherman Homes in Frederick, Md., is so organized that a homeowner has to take only one day off from work to have all warranty work completed by subcontractors and trades. This is one of the best wows I've encountered.
Indeed, you'll be amazed at what strengthens relationships with certain buyers. For example, in some high-end communities where residents pay fees to maintain common areas, builders provide concierge services, from making dinner reservations to securing tickets to a hot show. Other builders provide homeowner advocates who work with buyers throughout the process to make sure their wants and desires are met before move-in.
Whether in a restaurant, hotel or retail store, hopefully we all have encountered a situation that wowed us, left a favorable, lasting impression and planted the seed of a good idea for your operations. Consider an experience one of my friends had last summer at Disneyland. Disney clearly has a passion for what it does as well as unique talents and a unique personality, history and lifestyle. Yet the entertainment giant still needs a wow factor to impress today's jaded consumers. As my friend's family roamed the theme park, his young daughter's sandal broke and became unwearable. After visiting several gift shops within the park, they finally found the perfect-size pair of flip-flops thanks to a sales associate's help. When they approached the checkout counter to complete the $20 purchase, the saleswoman said, "That's OK, you don't have to pay. Since you broke your shoes in the park, we'd like you to have these free of charge. Enjoy the rest of your day."
I don't know whether Disney makes it SOP to give away flip-flops to those who broke theirs in the park, but the net effect was a definite wow that created huge loyalty in that family. The $20 gesture made the hundreds of dollars my friend already had spent at the park much more palatable. Plus, it followed the golden rule of wow factors: They should appear spontaneous. Although planned spontaneity is an oxymoron, it's true of the best wow factors.
So why doesn't every home builder have a wow factor? Most don't realize the importance of it, it often costs money, and competitors easily can duplicate many wow factors, so the bar needs to be raised constantly.
The investment required to develop and maintain a wow factor isn't as expensive as ranking low in customer satisfaction or, worse, losing referrals because of poor satisfaction. Plus, if you do your wow factor well, your customers will generate sales through referrals. Lastly, putting money into developing a wow factor might let you increase margins because home buyers will spend more for such outstanding customer service.
Characteristics of a Wow Factor
You know you need a wow factor to differentiate your company from the competition, but what distinguishes a good wow factor from a bad one? Here's a short list of traits to consider when researching the ideal wow factor for your business.
An outstanding wow factor:
- is generally preplanned.
- is something your customers truly value.
- is not promoted in your advertising.
- carries an element of surprise/spontaneity.
- cannot be easily duplicated by your competitors.
- is memorable.
- prompts word-of-mouth advertising.
- doesn't have to be expensive.
- might need to evolve or change in response to market forces.
- makes people say "wow."
Paul Cardis, [email protected]