It ranks up there among the true highlight-reel moments in life. A first kiss. Passing the diver's license test. Graduation day. The first day on a new job. A wedding day. The birth of a first child. News of that first child's plans to marry. The first day in a new home.
FIRST TIME, SECOND GUESSES
By the time you and your home buyer reach this point in the purchase process, you should have established a habit of exceeding his expectations. Best case: Your buyer has that "you can do no wrong" feeling about you as a builder and a person. Worst case: Your buyer has that "why'd you treat me so wrong?" feeling.
In the 1930s jazz classic, "Is You or Is You Ain't My Baby?" a lovelorn singer describes his uncertain relationship, his fears about his true love, and his despair resulting from not being able to trust the one he loves.
Similarly, it's at this time that buyers tend to experience turmoil and troubled moments of second-guessing and feeling overwhelmed at the finality and magnitude of their commitment. It's a phenomenon dubbed buyer's remorse, where there is an undercurrent of uncertainty about the home builder's competence, believability, and reliability. Don't fall victim.
You're apt to view the move-in experience as the buyer's day. Your team has done all it can–and accomplished no mean feat–to get the house to the finish line, and now it's all about the buyer.
But to the buyer, the move-in experience is like the thrill of a Broadway play. It's opening night, with shorts and sneakers taking the place of evening gowns and tuxedos. Instead of someone yelling, "Curtain!" it's a spouse calling out, "That box goes in the kids' room!" And instead of an after-the-show dinner at Sardi's, it's an I'm-not-opening-another-box evening with Sal, the pizza delivery guy.
If you disconnect your organization from this excitement, you may forfeit an invaluable opportunity to stand next to the buyer and bask in the spotlight. But, if you share some part of this day with your buyer, or–better yet–if you meticulously plan to surprise your buyer by doing things to enhance the move-in experience, you can become linked in the buyer's mind with an unforgettable moment and a well of goodwill that can set in motion a host of lasting positive effects.
Buyers typically have few expectations with regard to your involvement in the move-in process. For this reason, anything your organization does during this phase to enhance the buyer's experience will be more than expected. This is an opportunity to wow the buyer.
At this point, your enterprise's coordinated, programmatic customer-care template might look like this:
- Organize a Home Occupancy Team–composed of staff members from varied departments–whose purpose is to create a plan to systematically provide each buyer with an extraordinary final orientation, home delivery, and celebratory move-in experience.
- The team comes up with a list of low-cost or no-cost ways to surprise the buyer during the final-walk and move-in. Here are some examples of planned surprises:
*A "Welcome Home" sign is planted in the front yard.
*Instead of the sign saying "Lot 37B" in the front yard, it says "The Baxter Residence: Lot 37B."
*A cooler with drinks is placed in the kitchen during the final orientation walk and move-in day. *The purchase counselor and service representative deliver a couple of pizzas during move-in day.
*The driveway and sidewalks are hosed to make them look clean for move-in day.
*The division president visits the final walk-through or the move-in day without notice. In fact, every executive, including the CEO, should be required to join the move-in celebration team once each month at a random closing. This is great public relations, but it also reminds everyone on your team of the reason they are in this business.
*A red carpet runs up the front stairs.
*Balloons are attached to the mailbox.
- The team comes up with a short list and presents it to division management for approval.
- Your community customer-care team, composed, perhaps, of the purchase counselor, a construction representative, a design consultant, and a customer-care representative, reviews the list and decides which surprises to do in the neighborhood.