One of the most valuable benefits of the NHS competition is the insight into the best practices of builders that scored high in customer satisfaction. The table below ranks the NHS questions that yielded the greatest difference between the top five builders and all other entrants.
Of the seven categories listed, four relate to service and three to workmanship. The top five builders do best in categories related to walk-throughs and service, not quality and craftsmanship, which clearly indicates that people and service are critical areas builders must pay attention to in order to improve. "Response time to correct problems is also critical because problems are always going to appear in an on-site manufacturing process," Paul Cardis explains.
That’s one reason warranty service is No. 2 on this list. "The longer you make people wait for service, the lower your scores," Cardis says.
It's interesting that Village Homes is moving away from proactive warranty visits in favor of responding quickly when people file service requests. With proactive visits at 30 days and 11 months, Village found that employees asked customers to save service requests for regular visits. Not a good idea.
Engle Homes/Arizona reached the same conclusion. "Some people call those visits at three or 11 months preventative, but they're not," president Mark Upton says. "They may be efficient for the builder, but it's not what customers want. If they call, we go fix it."
Project superintendents are now critical because they are involved more in customer contact. "They have to be skilled at providing service and relating to customers as well as managing trades and achieving quality workmanship," Cardis says. He believes that builders must invest in training supers to interact with customers to reach the highest levels of satisfaction.
"Take a look at quality and workmanship in relation to the importance of walk-throughs," Cardis says. "It's important that the quality of the work shows when the customer walks the home. That tells me builders ought to develop more quality checks before a customer ever views the home."
Village Homes has done just that, even adding an extra week to close the home so three additional sets of eyes can look at every home before the final walk with the buyer.
The last two items on the list also relate to service. "The walk-through is not just about the quality of the finished product, it's also about the skill of the representative conducting it," Cardis says. "He or she has to properly handle buyer expectations. In the end, service is where it's at, and the best builders deliver."