By Lisa Marquis Jackson. BuildIQ

2212 Liberty Ave.

Pittsburgh, PA 15222


Years in the industry: 5

Type of research services: Customized qualitative services

Typical customer: Major regional or national production builders with 300 or more homes a year.

How they work: The Consumer Values program was developed to help understand "what makes people tick" when it comes to home buying. Search for qualitative info about what people were really saying. They specialize as a "second wave" of research and then provide online training to help manage the customer and go after the issues.

Average response rate: 30 percent to 40 percent

Unique benefit: "We dig deeper in a more qualitative way. It's not so scientific as it is hands-on," says CEO Michael Dickens. "We get into the hearts and minds of the buyers -- and into the environment. Sometimes we actually visit them in their home."

Eliant (formerly National Survey Systems)

18 Technology Drive, Suite 200

Irvine, CA 92618


Years in the industry: 20

Type of research services: Standardized program. "Our clients like to know who the best are and how they compare to the best builders in the country," says CEO Bob Mirman. "We do some customization -- but 98 percent is standardized."

Typical customer: More than 140 clients including D.R. Horton, Lennar, and John Laing Homes.

How they work: The firm surveys home buyers at three different stages to explore processes, customer service, and quality. The move-in survey is mailed 10 to 30 days after closing. The second survey focuses on customer service and is mailed five months after closing. The final survey focuses on home quality and is mailed 10 months after closing.

Average response rate: 61 percent

Unique benefit: Web reporting system. Daily and weekly e-mailed reports allow customers instantaneous access to their data. "One of the reasons we have had such success in changing customer satisfaction and performance at home building companies is because our information gets pushed out via e-mail to the people who need to see it, when they need to see it," says Mirman. "There's no delay."

J.D. Power and Associates

2625 Townsgate Road, Suite 100

Westlake Village, CA 91361


Years in the industry: 6

Type of research services: Proprietary and syndicated

Typical customer: A builder, in one of the country's 21 largest markets, that closes 150 or more homes a year.

How they work: The company funds its yearly study and includes all "qualifying" builders in the 21 markets it surveys. Qualifying means a builder must have had at least 150 public closings from the previous calendar year. Buyer names are collected from public records. In April and May, a four-page, closed-end survey is mailed to home buyers. The results are released publicly every September.

"All of our subscribers get all the answers to all the questions for all the builders in their market -- down to the community level," says Paula Sonkin. "We provide reports with actionable prioritized recommendations and an escaped shopper component." Software and a customized, in-person presentation are also part of the package.

Average response rate: A minimum of 50 responses must be returned for a builder to be included.

Unique benefit: Name recognition. Some who score well have an opportunity to use the J.D. Power and Associates name as a marketing tool within the terms of their claims and licensing agreements.

NRS Corporation

5930 Seminole Centre Court

Madison, WI 53711


Years in the industry: 10

Type of research services: Standardized base survey with additional customized programs. "We push to maintain base questions first and customize a blend designed around the customer," says Cardis, president of National Research Systems, in Madison, Wis.

Typical customer: Builders doing more than 50 homes a year through the large, multi-divisional top 10 builders in the industry.

How they work: The home buyer is surveyed at three different times after closing. The first goes out after 30 days, again after 90 days. A final survey is sent after one year.

Average response rate: 70 percent guaranteed

Unique benefit: Benchmarking at all levels of all surveys. "We are the only company that can provide benchmarks at all periods with a significant database," says Cardis.

Woodland, O'Brien & Associates

1329 County Road D East

St. Paul, MN 55109


Years in the industry: 17

Type of research services: Proprietary

Typical customer: Large local builders like The Weyerhauser Group, Lakewood Homes in Chicago, and Signature Homes in Las Vegas.

How they work: The company does an initial assessment for clients to establish a benchmark. Then, ongoing programs are customized to address the specific needs of each client. The focus is designed to elicit qualitative data.

Average response rate: 65 percent to 70 percent

Unique benefit: "We aren't statistical gurus," says Woodland.

"We're builders helping builders. We pinpoint what works and what doesn't. Then we sit down and talk about how we can make changes. We can do that because we've been there."

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