They say you get two ears and one mouth for a reason. Natural selection and human evolution aside, listening has to rank as one of adaptive strategy's under-appreciated, totally voluntary options.
Thing is, we can choose not to do it. And that almost never goes well. But when you get to realizing that at any moment you can do it--you can press the button that says to your mind, "listen!"--it can be liberating.
Last night, an associate of mine and I got to listen in on a two-hour focus group made up of a moderator and nine recent home buyers in a newly opened community in the Southeast. This happens a lot, we know.
You're talking to and listening to your prospect and your recent purchasers all the time, right?
Well, I hope so, because the first outpouring of response we heard from these nine recent buyers of the largest-costing hard-good in their lives is this. "I love my new home."
The immediate, unchecked, unashamedly gushing enthusiasm in the response.
When you hit the "listen" button, and that's what you hear, it has to be affirming. What you do, and what you're giving, and what you manage--across the worlds of finance, real estate, manufacturing operations, retail, design, materials sourcing, engineering, politics, and customer service--at each home and at each community level has this feedback from the ones who sign up to pay for the program. "I love it!"
What a powerful, motivating, purpose-fueling message to get from people who commit to your offerings! The session moderator asks each participant for "one or two words" that describe the feeling they have of being a buyer and a new resident in the community, but barely any of them could contain their response to a torrent of praise, not just for the home, but the community.
That's when hitting the "listen" button again starts to make real sense. Because it's after that moment that you're going to hear what you really need to know from them.
What they like specifically, and what they don't like.
Now, every focus group is different. The one we eavesdropped on had practicality as a very strong sub-current theme.
New design and the unmatched feeling buyers get from new construction, never-been-used places and features and functionality, go so far to define the experience. Nearly everybody affirmed about the importance of this indoor-outdoor living phenomenon, which goes far to lending the sense of expansiveness beyond the floor-space inside the house, adds to the livability, etc.
There's how a new home lives and there's how people who live there say it may constrain them. Whatever you read or hear about people purging material items and doing with less, and seeming to need less storage and organization opportunities, don't believe it. We heard, to a person, that strategic storage, discreet organization, tidy "a place for everything and everything in its place," solutions are absolutely a pain point if they're not addressed.
They may not be top of mind when people tour the models, which strip down life's needs to below the bare minimum essentials, and showcase the features that best "close" the deal. The gap--most of our focus group panel affirm--between what they see in the models and what they get with the baseline model without options and upgrades is a cognitive trouble-spot that builders will have to continue to work through as they validate value in the personalization and sales process.
One of the biggest take-aways from the session though, has to do with challenges around a fact of life in this latest stretch of recovery, which is greater density and tighter lots.
Six months into their new and enthusiastic homeownership experience, here's what the comments are about the density challenges--and they come down to two big complaints. One is garage and driveway width. People are not amused to have so narrow a driveway that when they get out of the driver's seat, they have nowhere to step but into their garden bed. Nor do they thrill at the notion of squeezing two cars into a garage that has no additional room for their trash bins, let alone any other storage space for seasonal decorations and the like.
Another hazard of tighter lot densities that need to be addressed with land plans and orientation, and streetscaping is privacy. One of the participants' comments said it all.
It's a good thing we're all friends and like each other, because we're looking into each others' backyards at very close range. That's a big adjustment."
That's when this button we can press if we want to--"listen!"--becomes critical.