Customer service is often confused with warranty service, but it is much more. Warranty service takes care of construction defects or workmanship issues and is an important part of a comprehensive customer service program. Customer service refers to the client's complete experience with the builder. From first contact to contract to completion of the home and beyond, satisfying the customer at every step should be foremost in every builder's mind.
In my way of thinking, good customer relations start with the ability to see issues from the customer's perspective; the commitment to exceed the customer's expectations; a willingness to do what was promised; and a business ethic that puts honesty, fairness and integrity ahead of monetary concerns.
Good customer service is really a client management system designed to help them understand and appreciate the building process. It is also one that creates realistic expectations while setting limits and responsibilities for both the builder and the customer.
Some of the mistakes custom builders make that lead to customer dissatisfaction include:
It has been my experience that most customers are satisfied with the finished home but are frustrated and exhausted by the building process. This frustration helps turn a normal person into a client from hell, so it's imperative to develop a system that shepherds the customer through the design/build process.
Too often, builders assume that clients have a much greater understanding of custom building than they actually do. One good way to rectify that situation is to create a series of manuals for the customer to refer to before, during and after construction. Although these manuals can be combined into one orientation manual, I prefer to break it down into three:
Showing the customer how to use the manuals during the construction and warranty periods will forestall many typical builder/client issues. Additionally, they are excellent marketing and sales tools that can be used to demonstrate your commitment to a positive customer experience.
Next month, part 2 of this article will cover how to create realistic expectations and avoid three warranty nightmares.
|Tom Stephani, MIRM, GMB, MCSP and CAPS, is a nationally recognized speaker and trainer who specializes in custom homes; infill housing; light commercial projects; and developing commercial and residential land.|