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Manage the Expectations


Manage the Expectations

Understanding and managing customer expectation is one of the biggest factors in buyer satisfaction.

By Paul Cardis May 31, 2004
This article first appeared in the PB June 2004 issue of Pro Builder.



Understanding and managing customer expectation is one of the biggest factors in buyer satisfaction. Some builder are establishing customer relations programs to eliminate misunderstandings and get everyone in the process on the same wavelength. Realistic expectations can be communicated formally at special events or informally during casual conversations.

Builders may host a community-oriented "meet-and-greet" event where they will give a presentation that establishes what the homebuyer can expect throughout the building process. Designing a program to set realistic expectations around each community's selling proposition is also important. If your selling proposition is the lowest-priced new homes in the market, you will attract a lot of first-time homebuyers. These customers may not realize that a new home often has some problems after the owners take occupancy. By letting them know this upfront, you are keeping their expectations realistic while also informing them of how post-closing repairs will be handled.

Here are some examples of how realistic expectations might be set.

Selling phase: Help the homebuyer set realistic expectations about their home's completion. Let them know that unforeseen delays are likely, and encourage them to be flexible and understanding. And don't make promises you can't guarantee.

Pre-construction phase: This may be a good time to remind some customers - especially the managerial types - that you are in charge of this project, and they shouldn't try to supervise any of the workers on the job site. Let them know that you have other projects under way and that workers won't be at their job site every day, all day. Also, remind them that they must make material and product selections on time.

Pre-drywall/frame walk-through: Don't forget, when taking the homebuyers through their walk-through, remind them of the maintenance they will have to perform to keep the home in good condition.

Final walk-through phase: Remind the homebuyer of your policy for making repairs. Go over the paperwork that explains who they should contact depending on the nature of the problem and what procedures will be followed to make sure that the warranty repairs are made promptly and satisfactorily.

Closing phase: There might not be much to inoculate against at the time of closing. After all, this is a moment of tremendous excitement for the homebuyers, and you don't want to do anything that would diminish the emotional high they are feeling. Nevertheless, if you suspect that they're having unrealistic expectations - such as they believe the newly seeded lawn will be thick and lush in a few weeks - now is the time to set the record straight.

Warranty phase: If you hope to maintain customer satisfaction after the sale, you need to continue setting realistic expectations throughout the warranty period. Be honest and realistic about scheduling repair work. If the tile guys are backed up three months, say so.

Often, customer satisfaction is lower than desired because builders either exaggerate too high or too low what they can do for homebuyers - whether it is a scheduling, budgetary or performance matter. If you are trying to "dumb-down" the experience or if you are making promises you won't be able to keep, you can count on having disgruntled homebuyers. So be honest when establishing customer expectations and promptly amend them as conditions change. The sooner you can modify expectations to align with reality, the less likely you are to disappoint customers.

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