It was a little thing, says Pardee Homes customer Robert Hall—the layout of some light fixtures over the kitchen sink—but when you’re having a new home built, little things mean a lot. “Their plan showed it one way,” Hall says. “I asked them if they would do it another way, and they did. They took care of it right away.”
Hall and his wife, Lynne (pictured at right), both retired from long careers in the home building industry, were looking for that kind of responsiveness in the builder of their new Las Vegas home, and that’s just what they got. “I get a letter from their superintendent almost every week telling exactly what they’re doing that week,” Hall says. “And if they tell you they’re going to pour your foundation within three days, it’s done within three days.” It’s a level of customer service “I never had before, except when I was in the business.”
Pardee maintains a robust customer service department, says Klif Andrews, who heads the company’s Las Vegas division. But to ensure the buyer responsiveness that so impressed the Halls, it also makes customer service integral to every phase of the customer experience, from sales to design to construction and beyond.
To best serve clients, Andrews says, one must first understand them. “Because we’ve been in the Las Vegas market for 65 years, we already have a lot of buyer data available to us,” he says. “Anytime we propose a new community, or a new product in a master plan, we have good data about buyers in that market area: what their incomes are, what their wants are.
“We also use a research company to run very specific information for us, usually within ZIP codes,” Andrews says. “They can tell us median income levels, average home price, what percentage of residents are married, what percentage have children at home. We can get down to a pretty granular level.”
To fill in the specifics of buyer preference, Pardee takes the direct approach: simply asking their in-person visitors, online visitors, social media followers, and buyers what they like. “We use online surveys, and we ask specific questions,” Andrews says. “One we asked recently was, ‘Do buyers want a patio cover built into the home, and if so, how much would they be willing to pay for it?’”
Pardee’s detailed knowledge of buyer trends—plus the work of some talented architects—meant the Halls were able put together a house that suited their needs and tastes from Pardee’s stock plan and menu of design options. That was no mean feat, Robert Hall says. “The last two houses we had before we moved back to Nevada were custom built—by me.”
Putting customers on the track to that perfect match is the task of Pardee’s sales agents. “They work very hard to qualify buyers,” Andrews says. “What are buyers looking for? What can they afford? What are their hot buttons? That’s a crucial part of this process, getting personally involved, so we can help them into the right home, the right loan product, and the right phase of construction. That relationship stays intact past the closing of the home, and it is our primary contact point through that whole process.
For most buyers, Andrews notes, “financing is critical, so we have a close relationship with our preferred lender, TRI Pointe Connect. We rely on them to help sell the buyer not only on the mortgage, but also on the home. Buyers want to know if they can qualify for, say, a $350,000 home. There’s a simple online qualification process that our sales agents walk buyers through in the sales office, and they can be prequalified in a matter of minutes. That tells them, yes, you can apply for a $350,000 loan, and you’re looking at Plan Three right now, which is $350,000.”
Further expediting the process, all of Pardee’s documents are managed digitally. “The buyers e-sign everything,” Andrews says. “We can access their documents online, they can access their documents, and we know where their documents are in the process, all through our own systems. We maintain that relationship with the buyer as we steer them to closing.”
The next step in the process is a visit to Pardee’s design studio, where a design consultant leads buyers through the options available for their house. “As primarily a move-up builder, we offer a pretty wide variety of choices in the design process,” Andrews says, “whether shower configurations, countertops, or cabinet types and colors. It’s a very hands-on relationship with the design consultant. We have physical products in the studio, samples of cabinets, samples of tile, countertops.”
Andrews is especially proud of what Pardee calls its Wow Kitchen. “It’s a full kitchen, with cabinets, a big island, appliances, and lighting. It isn’t that we’re trying to sell that particular cabinet or those particular light fixtures,” he says. “The idea is to wow buyers with what a great kitchen can look like and to encourage a more retail mindset.” Andrews compares the design studio to a car dealership. “It’s a showroom, so we want to put a pretty car out on the floor tile. It’s all about satisfying the customer, but we drive a revenue stream from it as well—generally over 10% of the price of the home. It could easily get to 25% of the price.”
Computer visualization and selection tracking organizes this phase of the process, too, Andrews says. “Every option in a community is available online to our sales associates. It’s very important for us to be able to tell buyers the right price, the right lead time, and the other products that each selection impacts. For example, if you pick a certain countertop, it affects what kind of backsplash you have with it, what kind of sink you have with it … It’s very important that we have the groundwork for that right.”
Design was a big draw for the Halls in choosing Pardee’s Bella Verdi neighborhood in the master planned community of Inspirada. Robert Hall says their house perfectly fit the bill for a retired couple downsizing from a larger, more formal home.
“I think their kitchens are some of the best there are,” he adds. Having built and owned custom homes in the past, the Halls might have chafed at making selections from a fixed menu, but Pardee’s reading of client tastes was right on the mark, Hall says. “We went to the design center and selected virtually the whole house the way we wanted it.”
One might expect buyer involvement to downshift when the home goes into production, but Pardee makes a deliberate effort to maintain contact. “We have dedicated touch-points for the buyers with our superintendent and our customer service representative, and dedicated opportunities when the buyers can walk the home,” Andrews says. “It’s an opportunity for us to sell ourselves to the buyer, to show them the guts of the house and how it’s getting built, to prove that we build in a quality way. It also gives the buyer a chance to get comfortable with the process. It really sets the table for a strong, ongoing relationship after the closing.”
To host buyers on the jobsite, superintendents must possess a very specific skill set. “Our construction staff is required to be very good at working with customers; that’s a primary job requirement,” Andrews explains. “This is a retail environment, and as in any retail enterprise, buyers are more demanding than they were 20 years ago.”
Most Pardee superintendents are with the company for years before leading a construction crew, he says. “Sometimes they start out in the customer service department, so they have a good grounding in the process already,” Andrews says.
Ongoing training enhances that experience and sets the standard for customer interactions. “A lot of it is just good quality human interaction,” he says, “but we bring in consultants and training tools. We have a very prescribed process for how our construction team interacts with our buyers, and we reinforce that process continually.”
The result is a buyer experience that even home building veterans like the Halls find noteworthy. When their previous houses were in construction, Robert Hall remembers that field crews “would shudder when you came through to see what’s going on.” At their Pardee jobsite, in contrast, “they come right over and say, ‘Is there anything in the house you’d like us to do for you? Are you happy?’ That’s something I’d never heard before.”
Those “how are we doing” questions are anything but idle, Andrews says. “Our attitude is, if there’s a problem, let’s be very proactive about it. Let’s try to turn that problem into a positive, and lots of times we do. Sometimes, when a buyer has a specific problem and we jump on it and address it immediately, they feel very satisfied after that, and it’s much less a problem than a process.”
With so much service woven through Pardee’s process, one could overlook the fact that the company also maintains a robust customer service department. “It’s actually one of the major departments in our division,” says Rocky Cochran, vice president of construction operations. “We have 11 customer service representatives, customer service field managers who manage the reps, and a director of customer service, who reports to me.”
Buyers meet their customer service representative soon after signing a contract, Cochran says, at a “meet and greet” with the sales agent and the superintendent. Later, the customer service rep reintroduces him- or herself at an “open wall” walk-through, prior to insulation and drywall. The message goes something like this, Cochran says: “‘We’re about three weeks from completing your home and doing your final walk-through, where I’ll be going over the care, use, and warranty items of your home.’ That’s when the service rep takes over—for the next 10 years, under our service warranty.”
Even during the warranty period, Cochran says, Pardee still treats homeowners like customers.
“It’s not about just building a house, getting participation from the real estate agent, and getting rid of the house,” he says. “I’ve been here for 25 years, and we’ve always been about investing in our buyers for the long term, for life. Even though Pardee is one of the leading builders in America, we’re looked at in the Vegas Valley as kind of a hometown builder. Our philosophy is, if you start off with an entry-level buyer, in five to 10 years that buyer is going to be a move-up buyer, and we’re going to have a product to accommodate them. They follow that ladder as their families grow and things change, and the next thing you know, they’re buying their fourth house as empty nesters.”
If he’s done his job, Cochran says, the one thing that need not change is the builder they call.