In my last post, I talked about the importance of surveying home buyers and how to find the right company to help you do it. Without feedback from customers, builders expend a lot of effort, time, and money fixing things customers barely notice while serious annoyances remain unchanged.
So once you’ve hired a firm to survey your buyers, how do you get the most out of the responses? The survey companies I interviewed offered an impressive list of ideas.
Provide Leadership. Marc Warren of Customer Follow Up Inc. advises upper management to establish how survey results will be disseminated and acted upon. Bob Mirman of Eliant points out that the No.1 factor in service success is an active leadership. Correspondingly, poorly performing companies have an uninvolved leadership.
Establish a Benchmark. Vince Kudla of H2Insight recommends searching for gaps to prioritize actions and establish accountability. He observes that monitoring survey results is like watching the stock market: “Returns will go up and down daily; it’s wise to watch for longer term trends so that you can spend resources wisely.”
Promote the Process. Once you’ve established a relationship with a survey company, let your home buyers know about it. An entry in your homeowner guide that includes the survey company’s logo and/or an email reminder of the coming survey encourages higher response rates.
Plan for Discussion. Geoff Graham of GuildQuality recommends circulating results to all staff connected to customers in a manner that empowers them to do something with the information. In addition, review the feedback as a team. “Instead of allowing the information to die on a desk or in a closed door meeting, this transparency and discussion begins to change the way employees think about their job responsibilities,” he says.
Respond to Dissatisfaction. All of the survey companies agreed that strong customer dissatisfaction needs to be acted upon ASAP. If a home buyer is frustrated or upset, who will address that and how? Will you have one person responding or will such situations be channeled to a department head, based on the content of the complaint?
Prioritize Improvement. You may discover many opportunities for improvement—especially in the beginning. Resist the urge to go too many directions at one time. Focus on one or two areas and formulate a plan for improvement. Once conquered, move to the next challenge. For many companies, a major opportunity lies in the area of warranty service. As Mirman points out, “the quality of after-closing treatment they receive dictates whether your homeowners are willing to recommend.”
Plan Training. You may find that you need to provide training based on what your homeowners are saying. For instance, if scores on the helpfulness of the homeowner orientation are unimpressive, organize training and rehearse delivering the information to achieve an interesting, relevant, and well-organized presentation.
Coach Employees. Kudla points out that feedback on individual employees may call attention to a need for one-on-one coaching to improve performance. Warren compares survey results to game films: Everyone should be interested and learn from what they see.
Recognize Success. As employees or teams are singled out for exceptional service by home buyers, ensure that those involved know that you know how well they are doing.
Acknowledge Advocates. Kudla H2 Insights suggests that builders acknowledge and thank their advocates. “We’re quick to get in touch with the home buyers who are upset, attempting to make amends. Be just as eager to express your appreciation for compliments and praise.”
Gather Testimonials. Your fans will, in many cases, be willing to do a testimonial. With permission to use their photo along with comments in your marketing, testimonials help make the good things you brag about real to prospects.
Challenge and Inspire. Chances are that you will find a great mass of buyers in the middle ground—the neutral or passive customers. Challenge your team to find ways to move that crowd to a more enthusiastic end of the spectrum.
Build Strength. Every builder occasionally runs into a difficult-to-please home buyer and sometimes even a dishonest one. Each time you identify and implement an improvement—whether in performance, documents, or product—you make it easier for your company to contain the damage the next time things go awry.
Take Advantage of a Heads-Up. Feedback can create early awareness of changing consumer views. If a particular category that was under good control for a long time begins to show signs of dissatisfaction, it warrants a close investigation. You may be seeing early signs of a new level of home buyer expectation. The sooner you spot those shifts the more effectively you can respond.
By applying the insights that you gain from feedback you can create a path to success with your home buyers. But as Jason Selk says repeatedly in his book, Organize Tomorrow Today, “Knowing something doesn’t change your life. Doing something does.” Doing something with survey results can increase home buyer satisfaction at the same time it can lead to profit and personal gratification.