"We already have existing relationships with many of the largest builders in the country," says MediaLab president Michael Lozicki. "A lot of these firms have retail design centers, where specialists in the sale of options and upgrades work with home buyers. What we’ve learned from builders is that their customers don’t feel they have enough time to make those selections. They feel hurried and under pressure, even in several two-hour visits to a design center.
"What we’ve done with Masco is create a CD that links to the Internet, and allows customers to gather a lot of information about the choices they will have to make before they get to the design center," says Lozicki.
"It explains what they will go through at the design center, gives them a little virtual tour of that facility, then talks them through a lot of the ‘yes-no’ questions that now take up valuable time on the front end of a design center visit."
"It also has interactive capability that allows customers to look at different selection options right on the computer. It makes the whole process of selecting cabinets, faucets, plumbing fixtures, and paint colors fun rather than intimidating," he says.
Once the design center consultant and customer finalize all the buyers’ selections, the software will electronically merge that data with the buyers’ contract, then produce change orders and trade contractor reports to assure that what gets selected is what actually gets built.
But what about builders who are not among the Giants of the industry, and don’t have retail design centers?
"This is certainly a tool for production builders," admits Lozicki. "But it’s not just for the big boys. It will work for any builder who does 100 or more houses a year. We do a lot of work with builders who produce between 100 and 200 houses a year. In fact, that’s the environment in which this software was tested. We just format the presentation a little differently for builders who do selec-tions in the sales office."
"It may even be more valuable for such builders," says Lozicki. "Their sales people may be walking buyers through the selections. And sales people are always anxious to get selections out of the way so they can get to the next prospect. They need even more help than the professionals in a design center in speeding up the process."
MediaLab and Masco are now fine-tuning the software with two prototype builders. It is expected to be on the market within 60 days. "We showed it to a lot of builders at the recent Builders Show in Dallas, so we know we’re on the right track," says Lozicki.