CustomerInsightTM Blog

Category Archives: Research

windowcondensation

Condensation – Top of Mind with Homeowners

We all know that Interior window condensation is caused by excessive moisture in the house, and it often occurs in the winter when the warm air inside the house condenses on the cold windows. Exterior window condensation can also occur in warmer months and is simply dew forming when the window is colder than the dew point. However, your homeowners may not know, or remember, when you explained this to them.

At CustomerInsight, we wanted to know how often condensation was mentioned in customer builder reviews and if this was an opportunity to remind customers how to best control this naturally occurring phenomenon.

Here’s what we discovered:
• More than any other time throughout the year, homeowners mentioned condensation on their windows in December and January, a total of 2,574 mentions, compared to 183 times in November, 67 times in February or 11 times in August.

• Of those homeowners who commented about condensation on their 1 month or 13 month surveys during December and January, 82% of the comments were negative. Homeowners felt their builder lacked quality workmanship they were promised or that the windows installed in their home were cheap.

A shocking finding for those who sink their teeth into warranty/post-occupancy service and client care and who field these incoming inquiries. Wouldn’t it be nice to alleviate some of those questions?

If you consider the amount of information we provide to customers, especially during pdi orientation and at time of possession, it’s overwhelming. We all have a limited bandwidth of information we can process at any one time, and for new homeowners, they just moved into a brand new home that carries a 1 year warranty plus extended warranties. They care, but, not so much at that particular time.

At time of sale buyers can be overwhelmed with all the information provided to them.
At time of sale buyers can be overwhelmed with all the information provided to them.

So, the question is, when do they care? The answer:  when it happens. We spend so much time educating customers about maintaining their home, sump pump, furnace filters, HRV, solar hot water collector, to name a few, that they tune out after 12-15 minutes. And if you’re sending information to read that is longer than 2 paragraphs, you may loose them. With so much going on it’s no wonder  they forget what was told to them earlier in the process.  This has  a big impact on how customers rate their warranty /customer service representatives on their post-possession builder reviews.

What can you do?
To understand how we can be successful is to understand the psychology of the customer. Consider when people are looking for a new home, their stress level is low, there’s not a lot of pressure because they are in fact, just looking. However, as they commit, purchasing a new home increases the pressure and stress level because it can’t be returned. Customers can’t use the home for a month or two then return it for a full refund, like many other purchases they have experienced.

Fast forward to the pdi orientation and possession and it’s information overload. How are we helping customers prepare for another transition?

From purchaser to homeownership and maintaining their investment? Some builders feel that providing the customer a 3-ring binder or thumb drive full of information is sufficient. But, it is those who go above and beyond who are winning customer-choice awards and top of mind when talking about how great their builder was. Providing a book of information is not enough and probably the reason why you may have so many incoming calls about the same concerns. What we need to do is have a process that supports the customer when they need the information.

For example, if you have customers taking possession in April – October, they will most certainly forget what you told them about condensation and how to correct it.

We need to remind them. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably been in the homebuilding industry long enough to know what frequently asked questions come to you throughout the year. Therefore, we need to be pre-emptive and remind the customers at the right time. Send out regular notifications to your customers just before something happening. With most customers commenting about condensation in December and January, you could send them a notice in October to help set expectations of what condensation is, why it happens and the best way to correct it.

Doing so will show how much your team cares about the customer, reduces incoming calls, helps keep your brand top of mind and a great reminder of why they built with you over any other builder.

Some of our H.O.M.E. Award winners have shown us the notification they send with a Youtube link about condensation because they know people are more willing to watch a quick 2-3 minute video than they are to read a 2 page notice.

checklist2To some, home building is full of dry, boring material that needs our customers’ attention. We need to understand our buyers’ and how to best transfer our knowledge base so they can maintain their investment.

homeownergifts

What are The Best Types of Gifts for Your Homeowners?

When it comes to new home gift ideas and what residential builders could consider, it’s time to move beyond the inexpensive and company branded items. In fact, it’s pretty much time to move beyond anything with your logo on it when it comes to giving gifts.

As many new homebuyers stated in our recent annual study, “I’ll wear their brand if they earned it.”

So, if you are one of those builders who have ‘earned it’, slap that logo on everything.
Otherwise, what makes a great closing gift?

Customer Comments:
In the past year, CustomerInsight received thousands of responses from new homebuyers on this topic and decided to share the findings with our valued clients.

  • Do NOT waste time and money on a gift unless you have the home 100% complete, clean and move-in ready.
  • Do NOT think a gift will cover up poor workmanship or help offset homeowners’ time off work to allow trades to finish or fix issues. “My time is worth month than you would spend on a gift.”
  • The gift should be thoughtful, unique.
  • Don’t include items that have already become an expectation such as any type of home cleaning service/product or items (‘Why didn’t you clean my house before delivering it to me?’), tools (‘I shouldn’t have to fix these deficiencies myself’), or home upgrades such as CFL light bulbs, faucet aerators, etc. (‘Why didn’t you just include this in my home in the first place?”)
  • Be careful not to offend.  A personalized gift can go wrong if you don’t get it right. Some items may offend based on lifestyle or culture. Know your customer before making assumptions.
  • ‘Floating’ the value of the gift based on the value of home is dangerous. Neighbours do talk and compare notes. Any new home is that homeowner’s biggest investment, regardless of size.

Top Customer Gift Recommendations:
Here are suggestions left by homeowners of their favourite gift ideas.  Remember a gift should be in addition to fulfilling your obligations and commitments. An extravagant gift will not replace lost good will.  Microsoft Word - chart.docx

Best practices:
Keep in mind, the gift should be relevant to the individual(s) receiving it, it should be about them not you. Show them you value their business and have put some serious thought into finding the perfect way to say thank you. The larger the builder, the more challenging it is to personalize the gift, but, well worth the effort. Here’s what many of our top performing builders had to say on this topic:
• “We always make sure that the gift is presented to the customer once they take possession – usually in the afternoon. We have heard of other builders telling their customer to stop by the sales centre to pick up their gift, which is horrible.”
• “Our gift always includes a hand-written thank you card from the President of our company which could be 560 letters this year.”
• “We source local businesses for our gifts and it’s important to support the community.”
• “Our team has a budget they use over the course of three months instead of one large gift at closing. It keeps us top-of-mind and the customer sees us still engaged well after closing.”
• “We know that everything we do speaks to our brand and always provide a personalized gift. The information we use comes from the interaction from our sales team early on.”

flowers

handshake-deal

Major Causes of Customer Dissatisfaction (and How to Make it Right)

CustomerDissatisfactionChart
At CustomerInsight, we are constantly challenging conventional wisdom on the topics of customer perceptions, expectations and satisfaction and have some revealing facts from our research. After analyzing over 240,000 builder reviews, customers told us what their breaking point was where they behaved in a manner that they were embarrassed about afterwards.

Here are the Major Causes, and how to Avoid Them:

47% Workmanship Issues
Quality of delivery didn’t equal what the customers were shown, saw,  or expected when they purchased. Most customers point to poor trade selection and sloppy workmanship.
47% of customers say workmanship is the major cause of dissatisfaction
Solution:  Consider the real root-cause or influencing factors such as unrealistic scheduling of trades, site conditions, weather, incomplete statements of work or worse, no SOW’s or agreements in place, selecting the cheapest trades, etc.

21% Communication Issues
Most customers cite poor communication with builder personnel as the major cause of their dissatisfaction. “I was told one thing and received something totally different,” is a common statement on many builder reviews. Customers felt the employees were holding back from them, didn’t inform or advise them appropriately, issues with verbal and non-verbal communication, errors in marketing collateral, not setting proper expectations or realigning customer expectations. Remember, where there is a gap in the build process, your customers’ imagination will rush in to fill what they think it should be.
handshake-deal
Solution: Instead of pointing fingers, look at the company policies, protocols, training program, processes first that the team member is following. It could be their behaviour, but, most often, we find the root cause is a process issue that has been the culprit.

18% Issues Delivering on Commitments Made
Many companies are more focused on ‘WOWing’ customers than fulfilling plain-vanilla promises they said they would fulfill. This focus has caused internal conflict between departments, demotivated team members, increased staff turn-over, and increased customer dissatisfaction. Most comments from customers included examples of basic promises made in terms of appointments, outstanding work, information, next steps, even service gifts that weren’t delivered on.
CustomerDissatisfaction

Solution: Companies should focus more on realistic, achievable commitments that are measurable and proven to create happy customers than formulating new ideas that causes confusion and turmoil internally on how to deliver a WOW experience.  Don’t set yourself up to fail, create a Universal Service guideline that your entire team can commit too and deliver.

14% Issues with Trust/Integrity
Starting with the sales experience through to orientation and possession/closing, an overwhelming number of customers share their discontentment with staff behaviours. Most often the customer points to a disagreement between what’s acceptable or not during a stressful time and ‘pushing’ through to completion when the customer doesn’t agree. “I don’t give you bad money do I”? Since 2010, there has been a steady increase in the number of complaints where customers state they ‘lack the trust’ they had when they purchased from their builder. This impacts us all in the residential homebuilding industry and the number one reason why more potential buyers seek other sources of information rather than dealing directly with new homes sales representatives.

Solution:  Start by identifying what is being promised to the customer. Listen to how your team interacts with the customer and what they say. We hear people stating all the time that a trade will be ‘right over’ to fix that when in reality, it’s probably a couple of months. Those two words are cemented in the customers mind and if you can’t deliver on that, you’re loosing trust.

Also, work with your team to identify what you can do throughout the build process to maintain that trust.

At CustomerInsight, we focus on uncovering valuable insights for home builders and trade partners. Our custom-designed software can provide meaningful feedback collected from customers based on each of our client’s specific process and terminology. The results is detailed research customized to our builders’ needs.
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