Charlie Scott has more than 25 years of hands-on homebuilding experience, much of this in senior management positions with an award-winning, nationally recognized Midwest builder. He credits a "Voice of the Customer" firm as instrumental in his homebuilding company's strategic growth and success. Today, Charlie is an owner of that "Voice of the Customer" firm – Woodland, O’Brien & Scott – and helps North American home builders grow their own customer-centric cultures, pursue operational excellence, and increase referral sales. Charlie is an internationally known customer satisfaction expert and has presented keynote addresses in the U.S., United Kingdom and India. Charlie also authored the book, “Construction Knowledge 101” to help builder personnel in all functions understand the nature of homebuilding. He would love to hear you from you at: CharlieS@woodlandobrien.com.
“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” — Confucius
It is that time of year. Customer satisfaction and quality ratings are shot against the sky in 17 markets, once again bringing attention to the voice of the home buying customer. Each year, these ratings, like 4th of July fireworks, illuminate headlines in the media. It is a beautiful moment in time when the home building industry all seems to look at the same displays, if only for an instant.
There are two major takeaways from this year’s results. Most notably, there appears to be a resurgence of the private, or at least the more locally-focused home builders. This year, the majority (nine of the 17 Customer Satisfaction “Award Recipients”) were private home builders — a big jump from last year. And five of the remaining eight “Award Winners” operate with more of a local mindset than the super national builders.
Conspicuously, there were several of last year’s Customer Satisfaction “Awards Winners” left off the podium. Could this signal home buyer preference for a more intimate relationship with their home builder? Could this be the results of past customer satisfaction focus on the part of builders, who may be more heavily invested in their local communities? It is hard to tell from the data, but I’d like to think this is the case. Clearly, there is a movement away from the “McMansion” makers and toward intimacy of both the home and the experience.
The real test will be what builders do with the recent results in those 17 markets, and more interestingly what the builders will do in the hundreds of markets not surveyed or reported. One thing is for sure: hearing the customer is but a small piece of an effective “Voice of the Customer” program. It is far more important to actually understand what the customers are saying, and then DO something about it — kind of like the wise words of Confucius. To learn more about effective “Voice of the Customer” programs and strategies, read my article in the November 2010 issue of Professional Builder, to be mailed in mid-November.