Self-Service Technology helps deliver cost-effective, reliable, and efficient homebuilding services while enhancing the customer experience
By ZOE MILLER
Whether it is because it is the biggest purchase in a consumer’s life, or if it is due to the rising tide of technology, home shoppers continue to demand more from the customer experience—in the research phase, when they buy, and when they close. The question this creates is this: How can a builder provide an enhanced experience that is also efficient, cost-effective, and productive?
The answer is self-service technology.
Self-service technologies (SSTs) are making a big impact on home buying and selling. From online research and exploration to information centers in sales and leasing offices, the tools available can prove to be a “win-win” on both sides of the buying experience. Homebuyers help themselves based on their need, interests, and schedule; simultaneously, homebuilders’ sales and marketing efforts become more cost-effective, reliable, and efficient.
Customers want accurate info without delays. With SSTs, prospective buyers do not have to wait in line or wonder if data about a housing community is up to date. Furthermore, the homebuilder boosts both convenience and experience in the home shopping process when kiosks in design centers and model homes deliver detailed visualizations of home interiors and exteriors. Apps with virtual tours of homes and communities can extend the sales and marketing reach in practically unlimited ways.
The accessibility of this technology can include fact finding and problem solving as well. Buyers can use SSTs to directly interact with builders, from sales and marketing, to construction, to the warranty department. Homebuilders can use data analytics to learn about the digital journey and better anticipate the needs of customers.
SSTs can help address the unknowns for shoppers or buyers with a concierge level of service. Standard home shopping questions might range from pricing, availability, and construction schedules, to elevations, floor plans, and other details. Buyers can find answers a few taps or messages away on their mobile device.
With many venturing into an intimidating realm of big choices and substantial financial concern, on-demand and reliable service can feel like a breath of fresh air. Quickly removing tasks or even frustrations from a to-do list that will soon include a down payment, insurance, taxes, warranties, movers, and more is of supreme convenience. Through always-on, self-guided, and self-explanatory tools, SSTs quickly resolve questions and issues that in the past required phone calls, emails, or face- to-face visits. The result is an optimized CX, which leads to homebuilder customer satisfaction and brand loyalty.
The goal of enhancing the customer experience and improving the buyer’s journey has spurred the transition from the old, more static sales and marketing center environment into a dynamic and responsive one, where answers and engaging content are just a touchscreen away. According to a 2017 Temkin Group study:
• 73 percent of companies with above-average CX maturity have better financial performance than their competitors.
• When consumers have a very good CX, they are five times more likely to recommend than if they have very poor CX.
• Conversely, after a bad experience with a company, 22 percent of consumers decreased their spending and 19 percent completely stopped doing business with the company.
• 30 percent of consumers tell the company after a bad experience, 50 percent tell their friends, 15 percent provide feedback on a ratings site and 14 percent tweet about it.
In addition, the study found that eight percent of companies view themselves as CX leaders in their industry, and 55 percent have goals to be an industry leader within three years. This means that homebuilders staying put in regard to their CX initiatives, including SST solutions, will likely fall behind.
At the intersection of the largest consumer industry — 627,000 new home sales in 2018, up 2.3 percent year over year — and the intense drive to improve customer experience — 81 percent of marketers expect to be competing mostly/completely on the basis of CX, according to Gartner, Inc. — SST has grown in popularity not only as a solution offering enhanced efficiency and reduced costs for homebuilders, but as a preference for many home shoppers and buyers.
Zoe Miller is a principal at Computer Presentation Systems in the Sacramento area. The more than 25-year veteran of the homebuilding industry sets the company’s development strategies and oversees its daily operations.