Spend more time listening to your staff, not your lawyers
by Bob Mirman and Eric Mitchell
Listening to the Boots on the Ground
“All bumps are unexpected. If you knew they were coming, you’d avoid them completely.” — Rebecca Crane
This is a true story.
As the Division President of one of our client builders, one of the first things in your inbox this morning was a homeowner’s “Legal Red-Flag Home Quality Assessment.” This is your customer’s detailed evaluation of his new home, 10 months after the move-in date. Check out this high satisfaction scores of 90 to 100 percent! Grab a cup of java, it’s a good day so far.
Oops, not so fast. Take a look at this homeowner’s unusually low satisfaction ratings for “Plumbing quality” and his blunt, slap-in-the-face comment: “Our community is planning a class action building-defect construction lawsuit about our continuing water leaks.” Uh-oh… gut check, didn’t see that coming.
The Wake-Up Call
At Eliant, we have created algorithms to evaluate each homeowner’s survey comments, quickly identifying buyers who expressed an unusual degree of anger in their statements or used several targeted words (like class action, defect, or lawsuit) indicating a higher potential for legal action. Although in this case the likelihood of legal entanglement was perfectly clear, most customer surveys are not as obvious, but still automatically find their way to Eliant’s Threat-List, triggering an immediate “Legal Red-Flag Alert” as a warning.
While it’s never a good feeling to receive a Red-Flag Alert, it does give a chance to imme- diately respond to a buyer’s concerns. Sure, it’s a bit late in the game to discover an issue, but this is better than learning about it from an attorney’s letter.
You find yourself thinking, “I wish I would knew about this earlier.” But you did know. Your superintendents and customer service representatives told you. 18 months ago. Every day, superintendents see the skill level of the people being sent to work on your homes and take notice of which trades care about your reputation. 18 months ago, 34 of your superintendents and service reps went to their smartphones and completed a quick RateTrades evaluation of 12 of their primary trades. It took each of these Raters an average of one minute to evaluate each trade.
Your superintendents’ ratings of plumbing installation quality averaged an anemic 81 percent. Your customer service reps/managers gave this trade a 76 percent for post-installation service (a ‘D’ grade compared to other plumbing contractors), and a tragic 67 percent rating (‘F’) on the “Would you hire them again?” question. Your Raters also included many comments, including:
• Absolutely no quality control or supervision at install;
• Sink & tub fixtures are sub-standard;
• Trade shows up for repair without right materials, parts;
• Multiple attempts to complete the repair;
• Shows up with damaged NEW fixtures, wrong size. Did not go over well with HO.
18 months ago… you could have used your field reps’ evaluations of this plumbing contractor to offer this trade some coaching on quality standards. Increased accountability could have created a lasting partnership, a higher quality product for your customers. Now it is an expensive fix and a ding on your insurance risk-rating and warranty reserve requirement, or possibly even a massive legal expense. Either way, it’s a time-consuming reputation killer.
Your team members have no interest in continuing to work with sub-standard trades, and they want you to listen to their feedback. Take their advice seriously. Spend more time listening to your site staff… and less time with your lawyers.
Bob Mirman is a psychologist and founder/ CEO of 33-year old Eliant, the building industry’s largest firm specializing in managing the customer experience.
Eric Mitchell is the Vice President of Eliant. They may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org