Paul Cardis, Avid Ratings
As the housing market continues to stabilize, successful builders discover giving customer gifts is not enough to satisfy buyers. Rather, builders need to create home-buying experiences tailored to individual lifestyles and wow buyers with personalization.
WCI Communities serves as a great example. The 60-year-old company has provided award-winning neighborhoods for clients in Florida, Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Virginia. The company's motto, "The Experience is Everything," sets the foundation for a corporate culture that believes in an exceptional level of customer service, from the corporate offices to the frontline employees.
One way WCI and other builders personalize the home-buying experience is by offering a wide variety of amenities that complement different lifestyles. At WCI, home buyers can choose from communities with championship golf courses; state-of-the-art spa facilities; gorgeous beaches; fully equipped marinas; resort-style pools; recreational complexes; club houses; canoe parks; fine and casual dining; nature trails; and activity directors who organize numerous events that appeal to residents.
During an unplanned tour of the builder's communities in New York, I observed a customer at a new-home construction site. Buyers regularly stopped in the community center to converse with the staff and meet other buyers. The staff openly shared construction updates and invited buyers to stop by anytime.
This welcoming nature clearly helped the staff connect with the buyers, who were anxious to begin their new lifestyle. The WCI team treated buyers with care while presenting clear information about the construction progress. Welcoming each buyer to the community before move-in was a much better approach than the "sign 'em up and hide" method many of their competitors use.
WCI is not alone in meeting home buyers' personal needs. Farnsworth Homes, on the other side of the country, is another top builder that succeeds by personalizing the customer experience. Rated No. 1 in customer satisfaction in the Phoenix area in 2006, Farnsworth prides itself on taking the time to listen to what each customer wants so that the finished home is a true reflection of the owner's lifestyle. "The most important tool we use in building your home is our ears," the company touts in its marketing, which helps prospects know what differentiates Farnsworth from other builders in the area.
With an emphasis on client involvement, Farnsworth outlines a four-step process that illustrates the company's commitment to personalized home building: 1) Tell us exactly what you want; 2) Work with our designers to develop plans; 3) Be involved with each step of construction; and 4) Enjoy your customized home.
Builders such as WCI and Farnsworth set the bar for customer delight, and other home builders must now personalize their services just to earn a spot at the game table. It goes beyond just choosing colors and countertops; it means improving buyers' quality of life through well-planned communities and treating home buyers as the unique individuals they are.
|Paul Cardis is CEO of Avid Ratings (formerly NRS Corp.), a research and consulting firm specializing in customer satisfaction for the home-building industry. He can be reached at [email protected].|