Smooth Sailing

Customer satisfaction is a process of matching expectations to deliver. Making smooth transitions is one of the most powerful strategies to achieve that.

By Paul A. Cardis, President/CEO, NRS Corp. | July 31, 2004



Customer satisfaction is a process of matching expectations to delivery. Making smooth transitions from one department to the next is one of the most powerful strategies for exceeding expectations and impacting a customer's long-term satisfaction and eagerness to make referrals. Transitions can be difficult unless everyone on staff - salesperson, options coordinator, project superintendent, etc. - is tuned into customer needs.

To create smooth transitions, you must have seamless handoffs between departments and staff. This is a lot harder than it sounds. To succeed you must:

  • have good organizational systems to know where home buyers are in the construction process and what their needs are at any given time;
  • have a steady and reliable workflow so that logjams, which exacerbate customer dissatisfaction, are kept to a minimum;
  • have employees who are trained extensively in customer service and know how to handle a variety of customer types.

Real-Life Examples
Pringle Homes in Leesburg, Fla., boasts a customer care department whose staffers are individually assigned to each home buyer, thus providing a continuous point of contact. In fact, the day after contract signing, Pringle gives buyers a special VIP telephone number to call anytime during the building process.

"We recognize that those transition points through which buyers move from one department to the next are where the gremlins live," says John Pringle, company owner and CEO. Pringle Homes ensures that home buyers are contacted at these crucial decision-making points.

Pulte Homes of Scottsdale, Ariz., involves representatives from each department in the processes of other departments. For example, a project supervisor might be involved in the sales meetings. This ensures that information is clearly communicated and understood from department to department. Linking personnel in this manner removes the need for awkward, cold introductions at the transition point.

Giant production builder Toll Brothers, headquartered in Huntington Valley, Pa., uses a project management system, and the project manager is the builder for a particular community. Home buyers deal with one senior level management person who is in charge of virtually everything within the community. Smooth transitions are more likely with fewer people communicating with the home buyers.

Keep It Simple
Achieving a smooth transition inevitably begins with a clear understanding of the building process. The sales process is about meeting home buyers' needs from the moment they show interest, through the selection of options and to the final closing. The more you simplify things for customers, the happier they will be.

A growing number of builders streamline the options-selection process with well-organized design centers. Many of these operators also have learned that more is not always better when it comes to options.

Only after a builder has a firm grasp of the entire process, can he or she begin to troubleshoot and circumvent potential problems.

After you've figured out ways to guarantee smooth transitions, start to sprinkle in the wow factor and relationship value strategies to fill in the gaps, creating a customer satisfaction culture that is difficult for competitors to replicate.

Each transition offers a great opportunity to involve home buyers. By engaging buyers during transitions, you're truly partnering with them and enabling them to participate more actively in the process.