T.W. Lewis has long taken a proactive approach to sustaining its relationship with buyers after the sale. Now it's attempting to capitalize on those relationships to generate new business.

Thirty days after they close on escrow, buyers meet with one of the builder's customer care representatives for a follow-up review of the home's construction. That's when scratched countertops or sticking doors are addressed, as well as warranty coverage on products that might not be working properly. Subsequent reviews, which take between one and two hours, are scheduled three months and 11 months after buyers move in.

In recent months, it has taken steps to automate and streamline the repair and maintenance process. It purchased five new vans so service reps can do more repair work themselves. Each rep is armed with a laptop so he can generate purchase orders and send them to building products suppliers.

Since January, Goldmine scheduling software has been prompting salespeople about different ways they should be contacting buyers after the sale. "It also allows the sales supervisor to look over the salespeople's shoulder to see how hard they are working," says the builder's owner, Tom Lewis. The results so far have been mixed, he says. "We're finding that some of them are working a lot harder than we thought." Lewis adds that this new system is providing his company with a wealth of demographic and psychographic data, which it wants to use to predict customers' expectations, says vice president of marketing, Dennis Herrig.

Those buyers are also viewed as sources for new leads. At contract, salespeople are required to ask buyers if they know of anyone who is in the market for a home. In the back of the "Road Map to Your New Home" binder it issues to each buyer, the builder places business reply cards that buyers can send out to inform acquaintances about T.W. Lewis. At the close of escrow, the company sends out a letter thanking its buyers and reminding them to tell a friend about their home.

"We're looking for referrals, of course, but we're pitching this as a service," says Herrig.

Goldmine reminds salespeople to send buyers a gift basket after they've move in, which includes a $2,500 certificate with a one-year expiration date. If that certificate is redeemed at any of the builder's nine sales offices, the salesperson who sold the home that got the gift basket receives $500.

Tapping Referrals
(Customers willing to refer T.W. Lewis)
1994 80%
1995 91%
1996 91%
1997 95%
1998 92%
1999 85%
2000 90%
2001 88%
2002 94.3%
Source: Woodland O'Brien

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