All hail the happy home owner: the No. 1 referral source for home builders and remodelers. Companies that forget to keep that top of mind are companies that are in for a bumpy ride, presenter Ed Earl of Priority One Projects told attendees at an educational session during the 2017 NAHB International Builders’ Show.
“Quality construction does not guarantee a happy home owner, because your home owner is going to focus on the construction process rather than the final product,” Earl said. “The home owner is part of the project, and [he or she] is the best source of your new business.”
That’s why we’d do well to understand the home owner’s perspective, take steps to communicate effectively and make sure to manage expectations, Eral said.
It does not matter how many DIY cable shows the average home owner watches — or maybe because of them, the average home owner “doesn’t understand construction on a fundamental level. They don’t have the experience. They don’t understand it’s a process — you can’t go and buy a kitchen in a box from Amazon,” he said.
Continually managing customers’ expectations and ensuring they understand the meaning and impact of change orders will save them a lot of heartache and bad feelings, he said.
Learn each customer’s communication preferences, including which channels and how often. Sometimes it’s one long email at the end of the day, or a series of texts throughout the day, and for others it’s speaking by phone. Make sure you find a method the customer is most comfortable with.
No matter what the form of communication, document everything. “A group text is great for a lot of conversations and a way to get husbands and wives on the same page, but make sure you get a screen shot of the conversation and put it in your records,” Earl said.
Investing in a cloud-based construction management system is a great customer service tool because your home owner can log in and see the progress, view photos and see what’s next on the schedule.
Make sure your client knows that every project is really a prototype. “No one has ever built this exact project before,” Earl said. That can help set the stage for the uncertainty inherent in every project, from missed schedules to change orders. The truth is, once a schedule is printed, it’s outdated. “Let them know it will be an emotional journey, so they can be pleasantly surprised and thankful when things go smoothly.”
Audio recordings of IBS education sessions, like Building Happy Homeowners, can be purchased on nahb.org.