Hello and welcome to our very first edition of ‘Ask clixifix’. Ask clixifix will be a monthly article where we take an in-depth look into a specific query related to customer care in the building and construction industry. This week we concentrate on the residential sector and explore an issue that we frequently discuss with our clixifix clients:
‘How do I manage homeowner expectations with regards reporting defects and response times?’
It’s a tough question, with a few moving parts that we’ll investigate later in this article but first it’s important to note that your homeowners don’t want to complain or get angry and that the reason they do get upset is purely because their expectations haven’t been met. Managing their expectations allows you to set the parameters around what is acceptable and what isn’t.
For any house builder, it’s fundamental to the success of your business to keep your new homeowners happy. In very simplistic terms your customers are the only reason that your Construction business exists. In today’s world of digital connectivity, an unhappy purchaser can do more damage to your brand than ever before.
So how do we effectively manage expectations?
Start the conversation early
Often, this will be the first new build home that your homeowners will have purchased. This means that they have little experience navigating the home buying process and may not know what is acceptable and what isn’t. Upon reservation, we recommend starting the discussion around Defects and Repairs. This is an incredibly important step that will save your Customer Care team a lot of time in the future. Explain to your new homeowners that within warranty period, your company are responsible for fixing or repairing any reported defects. Take time to ensure you’ve clearly defined what constitutes a defect and most importantly, what doesn’t. For example, two very simplistic examples; a blown light bulb should NOT be reported as a defect, whilst a leaking roof absolutely should.
We also recommend providing your new homeowners with a Defects and Repairs classification schedule with agreed upon response times. In an ideal world, the aim would be to deliver a zero defect development, however the reality is defects will occur. From your homeowner’s perspective, any defect is an emergency however as Principal Contractors, you know that’s not the case. Take the time to explain to your homeowners the logistics of repairs and what a reasonable response time should be. To aid you in this process, we’ve created this helpful template that can be found here.
Communication is key
During the home demonstration, remind your homeowners of the Defect and Repair process. Ensure that your homeowners understand how they should contact you in the event of a Defect. Whether this is over the phone via a customer care hotline, email, or your online customer portal, it’s critical that your homeowners understand the most effective way to have their issue resolved.
Effective communication is two-way. Allowing your homeowners to ask questions is critical to setting their expectations and should happen in a face to face environment so as to facilitate discussion. A discussion (as opposed to emails etc.) allows each participant to respond immediately with questions or clarification. This will go a long way to reducing the number of reported defects by removing any misinterpretation or misunderstanding that is often created by simply handing your homeowners a ‘Defect Guide’ or a large file of documentation and expecting them to read and digest it all.
Own your own bad news
It’s inevitable that at some point, something will not go to plan when resolving a reported defect. Worse still, an agreed upon timeframe for a repair will have to be pushed back for some reason. Don’t shy away from communicating with your homeowner, notify them as soon as possible. By being proactive with your own bad news you will have far greater control of the story and be able to shape it more effectively. Breaking your own bad news and accepting responsibility creates an impression of transparency, openness and trustworthiness – all important values.
In order to successfully emerge from a customer care complaint, owning your bad news and accepting responsibility shows your customers that you genuinely care about what’s happened to them. By taking action to resolve the situation or prevent it from re-occurring you build a sense of trust with your homeowners that engenders loyalty and understanding allowing you to manage expectations effectively. Staying quiet and letting social media users break the story does not help to convey these sentiments and actively hurts your reputation in the marketplace.
Providing an exceptional customer experience is everyone’s responsibility and requires your whole organisation working towards one goal. By starting the conversation about defects, repairs, and response times earlier in the process (reservation) your Sales team take some of the pressure off of the Customer Care team by ensuring that homeowners’ expectations match your own. Effectively managing customer expectations can be a slow burner, however the benefits definitely constitute a huge win.
Take control of your customer care and empower your purchasers and clients to collaborate with you on their defects and repairs. clixifix will provide your business with a platform for your invited users to sign in and report their issues regarding their new home in real-time from anywhere that has an Internet connection. 100% web-based, no software to download or install, no training required. You and your team will see the benefits in a matter of days. Why not start your obligation free, 30 day trial of clixifix today? Visit our website for more information: www.clixifix.com