Eliant’s recent roundtable discussion, hosted in Irvine, Calif., focused on becoming a better builder through customer care
By JULIA EDINGER
On Tuesday, October 30th, I had the pleasure of representing Builder.Media at Eliant’s 2018 roundtable event. Featuring keynote speaker and internationally renowned customer relations expert and author Carol Smith, the event focused on how to “Become the Builder of Choice” through extraordinary customer care and improved trade relations. Through presentations, breakout sessions, and a trade panel discussion, top builders in the industry came together to share their best practices and learn from one another.
Bob Mirman, Eliant’s CEO and founder, hosted the roundtable event, stimulating discussion that would help those who are already succeeding in the building industry to improve even more. He recognized the presence of Carol Smith and Dick Bryan, former Customer Experience Executive of the Year, as two people in attendance that “redesigned the way customer service should be.”
Smith’s speech addressed various problems with today’s consumer, in addition to providing several solutions. She suggested that consumers today are difficult to satisfy because technology has changed pre-existing boundaries of knowledge. Smith emphasized the importance of showing continued care to customers after the contract is signed, and even after the home is built, because, “people get addicted to this excitement.” Her speech also touched on how builders can improve customer relations with small gestures such as providing postcards with the buyer’s new address to help personalize the experience for buyers. Smith’s main point on customer satisfaction was that the modern consumer is bred from the digital age: “We are hungry for human contact and human interaction, and the companies that are able to provide that are going to succeed.”
The morning’s breakout sessions were focused on the themes of customer care and job-site cleanliness. While many new strategies were shared, the overarching themes varied little. The key ideas about customer care included ensuring the presentation quality is pristine when the buyer visits the home site, adding some personal touches, and being proactive about checking in during the post-closing process. The key ideas about job site cleanliness involved having one day a week on which everyone shows up to clean and communicating what to expect from the messiest stages ahead of time with the buyer.
LJP Ltd.’s President and Founder, Don Neff, and Vice President of Construction Operations, Eric Turner, presented on creative construction practices and trade relationship tactics. Neff emphasized the importance of open communication, stating, “I’ve never met a builder that didn’t want to fix the problem.” Turner addressed high turnover rates in the trades, emphasizing the need for a strong working relationship with staff. The solution, according to Turner, is found in using new technology, quality assurance procedures, and quality assurance craftsmanship.
Eric Mitchell, Eliant’s Vice President of Innovation, gave a compelling presentation on TradeStar in the afternoon. He highlighted how builders can enhance their relationships with their trades through the use of TradeStar’s platform, which allows constructive evaluation of both builders and trades by the other, providing growth from both sides of the building process, and opening the lines of communication. Evaluations are sorted by categories and feature an easy-to-use and anonymous rating and comment system to protect and improve relationships within the industry.
This progressed into a trade panel discussion in the afternoon featuring executives from three major trades: Schamber Electric, Excel Cabinets, and Caliber Interiors. According to Bob Mirman, “The 90-minute discussion, filled with candor and emotion, included a lengthy Q&A with the builders in attendance. This compelling conversation reminded us that trades are doing their best to meet builders’ schedules and labor requirements, and that the builder-trade relationship is a true partnership.”
In both breakout sessions and presentations, the unequivocal theme of the day was the importance of communication. In regards to the relationship between homebuilders and buyers, as well as between homebuilders and trades, the priority should be on creating partnerships with excellent communication – extraordinary customer care will then come naturally.
Julia Edinger is the Editorial Assistant for Builder and Developer magazine. She can be reached at Julia@penpubinc.com