Providing great customer service after closing is a surefire way to keep your homeowners happy (and recommend your company to their family and friends), but doing so can be complicated and expensive.
8 Tips for Managing the New-Home Customer Experience
Here are a few ideas to help you better manage the customer experience after move-in.
1. Build it right the first time
While it shouldn’t need to be said, the best way to manage your homeowner service program is to deliver a complete, clean, and customer-ready home at closing. Experience shows that when you deliver a defect-free home, homeowners are far less likely to ask for service once they’ve moved in.
In contrast, when you have an outstanding list of repair items that survive closing, your homeowners—wary about the quality of their home and unhappy that repairs are needed—are far more likely to create long lists of additional items that need attention.
2. Be proactive when offering service
Homeowners are much more likely to be willing to save their service requests (instead of calling your service department for every nail pop and dripping faucet) if you tell them at closing that you’ll contact them 30 days after closing to offer a service visit.
Better still, offer to do a “free” touch-up service of dings and scratches caused during their move-in and ask them to hold their list until that visit. Have your service team conduct the visit with tools and paint brushes in hand so that most minor items can be repaired on the spot.
Another best practice is to schedule a return visit after six or 11 months, the latter just before the first-year warranty expires. Your customers will greatly appreciate that attention.
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3. Explain the warranty coverage
Before closing, take the time to go over warranty documents with your customers. You’ll eliminate lots of service calls if they know that the tiny cracks in their flatwork aren’t covered, for instance, among other things. The more they know about what is covered in their warranty (and what isn’t), the less often they’ll call you.
Also, make sure homeowners know about how to maintain their home and systems, such as changing the HVAC filters and scheduling service for their appliances—all of which can be explained at the final walk-through. That event should not be just about creating punch lists of needed repairs but also include the warranty review and homeowner maintenance responsibilities.
4. Do all of your repairs in one visit whenever possible
Working couples don’t often have the luxury of staying home waiting for a parade of trades and warranty service folks to make simple repairs.
When you receive a long list of things to do (see #1 above), set up all of your trades and staff to be at the home at the same time (as much as is practical) to get the maximum amount of work completed during a single visit. Customers will really appreciate this.
Tip: Confirm with your trade partners that they will show up as scheduled and on time, just as you would for a home under construction
5. Make home emergencies as easy to deal with as possible
When a homeowner’s plumbing leaks, or their lights go out, or their AC unit stops cooling, they need immediate help. Don’t make them jump through hoops scheduling trades through your service department.
Instead, give them the emergency numbers of the key trades and let homeowners contact them directly. Yes, you’ll need to require that your trades keep you informed of these events, but after the fact, not while water is gushing down your customer’s stairs.
6. Make scheduling service convenient
Yes, offering service on a weeknight or on a Saturday morning can be inconvenient and expensive for you, but for your customers it can be a major source of satisfaction. You can always tell them that getting service during regular weekday working hours will be available much sooner (and many will opt for that), but offering evening or weekend hours by appointment will go a long way toward making your homeowners more satisfied with your service responsiveness.
7. Under-promise and over-deliver
If you think it will take a week to get your trades scheduled for repairs, tell your customers that it will take two. If the service repair will take 2 hours, tell them it will take four. Surprise them by getting things done faster and more conveniently than they expect. Set their expectations and be certain you can meet—and ideally beat—them.
8. Let your service team deliver good surprises
Empower your service team to make decisions (within agreed limits) to do a little extra work for your homeowners. If it isn’t under warranty, but will only take an extra half hour to correct, let the service technician make that call, being sure to let the homeowner know that this extra service is above and beyond the warranty. This pleasant surprise will go a long way with homeowners.
Spread the Word: Positive Reviews of Your Business
Imagine your homeowners welcoming guests into their new home for the first time. Then imagine them telling their guests how responsive and helpful your service team has been when making minor adjustments in their home (or better yet, reporting that the home was perfect on closing day). It sure beats having homeowners include on their tour all of the things that need repair that they’ve been waiting weeks to be scheduled.
Customer satisfaction is worth its weight in gold. Don’t risk turning a happy homeowner into a disgruntled one by botching your service performance after closing.