It’s Spring and not only are the temperatures warming up but also is the residential sales marketplace. You’ve seen the stats from our friends at MTAR, TAR, and Market Graphics. From permits, to closings—we’re back in business! Now, if we can only find enough building lots to survive until some past, and perhaps, some new developers step up to plant some future seeds—life for those of us in the construction business will be GOOD.
Like all our members, when business is good, we shine. Hopefully, as a part of our response to the uptick in our market, each of us can remember the importance of not only providing value and quality for our clients, but also delivering on the promise of outstanding Customer Service. After all, we must remember we are not just in the sticks and bricks business, we are in the people business.
How often have you heard from a prospective buyer or realtor about the terrible experiences they’ve had with their builder? Maybe for some, that is a foreign happenstance. But for the Caywood Builders’ Team, that has happened more than once….believe it or not! As you listen to the experiences of others, their frustration, sometimes—their anger, even outright disgust, you must ask yourself: “How does this happen?” And, more importantly: “Why does this happen?”
In my experience there are two primary factors contributing to this dilemma of Poor Customer Service. They are simply expectation and communication. Let’s start with the “e” word. Many times when I have dissected the root cause of a problem, I clearly discover that an unplaced, unjustified expectation is the culprit. Vague answers to specific questions, unclear descriptions of processes, or activities, or just plain old misleading verbiage are all prominent triggers for false expectations. You may have heard of the phrase-“under promise and over deliver”? Well there you go. You’ve heard it, but do you understand the principle involved? For example: The realtor asks when the appliances will be installed so the buyer can see how they look in their new kitchen. The builder, without verification from the vendor, quotes a specific date. The “expectation” is set, right? So what happens when the supplier falls behind and, guess what? No appliances when the realtor and the buyer check the kitchen! Who is to blame? Or, is that even important?
In my book, the blame is not the issue. The expectation of meeting a commitment is. I really don’t think most realtors and buyers are searching for an excuse to “blame” a builder for anything that goes awry. I simply think they rely on our responses more than we think they do, and an element of trust is either established or destroyed with each circumstance. I’ll bet most of you reading this article can remember more than one situation where you wished you had been more careful about an answer you gave to a client. Am I right?
Now, let’s talk communication. I know every member has a definition for this process or term. It’s truly not rocket science, is it? But do we always practice good communication skills? Are we 100% transparent and honest when we share information? The answer, sadly, is probably NO!
Using my seemingly trivial example of the question about appliance installation; what is wrong with a response like this: “You know folks, I’m not entirely sure about that, but I’ll find out, and let you know.” It’s especially important when this is the TRUTH. But we sometimes feel compelled to provide an answer that is specific, even when we really don’t know the correct answer. The expectation of the realtor or buyer is simple. They just want to know when they can visit the house and see their new appliances. The builder communicates either an accurate or inaccurate response. And the result is either satisfaction and trustful confidence, OR dissatisfaction and a lack of trust. It’s really that simple.
So, the point is this: In addition to all the sticks and bricks we put in place to build a beautiful home that will last a lifetime, let’s also build a solid customer relationship that will last as well.