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Take the Voodoo Out of Home Building Process Improvement

Business Management

Take the Voodoo Out of Home Building Process Improvement

With a few notable exceptions, builders haven't figured out that if they create a disciplined, bulletproof building process, they'll have very few customer issues. And for those who do, they have time to deal with them

By Scott Sedam, Contributing Editor July 31, 2007
Voodoo doll stuck full of pins
Builders, you don't need voodoo to achieve customer loyalty, just be process-focused. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons / BeatrixBelibaste CC by 3.0)
This article first appeared in the PB August 2007 issue of Pro Builder.

I frequently run into my neighbor John in the yard. Last evening, while watching the dogs play, we talked about the protective actions taken in the Great Lakes to limit the diversion of fresh water to far-off places, something everyone in my area is against. That led to a discussion about the environmental groups that are leading the fight, such as the National Wildlife Federation.

John said, "Well, you know some of those green groups just go too far; they are obsessive." I agreed with John but said I thought that was because they had to be. The combined power of the all the industries and governments that had conspired to make such a mess of the Great Lakes requires a bunch of very loud, obnoxious people overdoing it on a regular basis to get anyone's attention.

Eighteen hours later I ended a 90-minute interview with the co-author of a new book on how to achieve the utmost in customer loyalty and reap exceptional results. We were doing fine until he asked me about some of the "high-powered techniques" many builders use to analyze, classify, understand and communicate with prospects and customers.


What Builders Do for Customer Satisfaction

Now, I like some of that stuff, and our facilitators even use some of it in training. But a lot of it is pure voodoo. It has more to do with manipulating people rather than communicating with them.

I explained to the author that 90 percent of what builders do to get customer satisfaction is front-end or back-end.

A good estimate is 20 percent up front, trying to know the customer and set expectations; 70 percent at the back-end, managing the final walk, closing and warranty period; and only 10 percent during the building process. Why? The middle requires improving and managing the construction process itself, and that's a lot harder.

Here's the rub: With business as bad as it is, builders have cut back on both the front and back ends and especially on service. They can no longer afford reparations.

The data in J.D. Power and Associates scores lags as much as two years, but I'd guess the 2006 national builder average of 112 will drop this year, if only a point or two. In 2008, however, I predict a precipitous drop — unless something big changes. That something big will be builders finally getting serious about genuine, deep, paradigm-changing process improvement.

With a few notable exceptions, builders have not figured out that if you create a disciplined, bulletproof building process you will have very few customer issues. And for those you do, they have time to deal with them. Our people spend all of their time fixing things and relationships that are broken, leaving no time to prevent problems and improve product and process.

Meanwhile, I will keep cajoling, agitating and writing to provoke builders into becoming truly process-focused. When I finally came up for air at the end of the author's interview, which had morphed into a Scott process tirade, he said, "Wow, you're really obsessive about this process stuff, aren't you?"

I replied simply, "Damn right. I have to be."


Written By

Scott Sedam is president of TrueNorth Development, a consulting and training firm that works with builders to improve products, process, and profits. A senior contributing editor to Pro Builder, Scott writes about all aspects of the home building business and won the 2015 Jesse H. Neal Award, business journalism's most prestigious prize, for his commentary in Pro Builder. Scott invites you to join TrueNorth's Lean Building Group on LinkedIn and welcomes your feedback at scott@truen.com or 248.446.1275.

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