Self-service technology tools that deliver retail-like convenience and control to home- buyers will continue to grow in popularity
By ZOE MILLER
Buying a new home is one of the biggest purchases a person will make, and homebuilders are more focused than ever on the customer service impact of the purchase. It’s not merely a one-time signing on the dotted line; it’s about a lifestyle and lifetime. Instead of transactions, homebuilders are becoming more aware of the process, relationships and customer experience, and the technology software tools that can help strengthen them all.
The engagement process starts well in advance of prospective buyers visiting a sales office. Homebuilders need to be cognizant of communication with customers throughout the buyer’s journey and well after closing. That’s where builders should emphasize their entire stock of skills, techniques, and software platforms to enhance customer engagement and have them smiling about their experience as much after year one of homeownership as they did on day one.
Customer service is critical to competing effectively. If a reminder is needed that purchase decisions are not all about price, check Yelp or Google restaurant comments or consider this: Why does Tesla have the most loyal customers of any car company (at 90 percent overall satisfaction)? Today’s home shoppers expect a customer experience more akin to retail.
The sales and marketing approach within the homebuilding industry has shifted to high customer engagement across several touchpoints and a greater service emphasis. That includes not just service after the sale, but the needs of every customer along the path to homeownership. It starts with fact finding online, onsite visits, and the actual purchase. It continues with the waiting period during construction, and finally moving and settling in. Tech software tools are helping builders communicate more effectively with customers along and about their homebuying journey.
Quickness, convenience, and control are critical during the initial information gathering stage of homebuying. Consumers want to know home availability, homesite location, and community look and feel in real time, and they want to evaluate these things from the comfort of their own home or office without a salesperson leading the conversation. The D in customer DNA might as well stand for data. Self Service Technologies (SSTs) deliver critical homebuying information based on the customer’s needs and goals, moods and interests, and preferred pace and schedule. Software can provide buyers with real-time homesite availability, pricing, and more via a web-based, interactive sitemap application.
The consumer preference for self-guided exploration doesn’t end when the buyer’s journey moves onsite. Helpful and engaging, touchscreens can boost the customer experience by delivering information without reliance on personnel or other limiting agents. The SST innovation encourages home shop- pers to mix, match, and select floor plans, elevations, homesites, options, upgrades, and more.
Once a home is under contract and being built, builders are finding new ways to improve management and scheduling for more efficient, timely projects. Imagine saving 45 days of build time with a new software application. That’s what Oklahoma homebuilder Homes by Taber did using full-featured construction scheduling software, which through its cloud-based portal kept both homebuilder and vendor up to date on construction schedules, punch items, safety assessments, and more. With this kind of technology, everyone stays on the same page so emails and phone calls are reduced, and mistakes and confusion can be avoided.
The longest stage in the process, the time after sale and move-in, might get the shortest attention span. Obviously, owners want the peace of mind that their biggest investment will operate properly and maintain its value. With the same pre-sale values of speed and autonomy, consumers want to be able to submit and monitor warranty issues without having to call the homebuilder, much like tracking a retail shipment or return. And the builder wants to give consumers the confidence that their issues are being addressed, tracked and resolved.
Technology software tools in one of the largest consumer industries continue to reduce impediments along the buyer’s journey. Amplified by more and more self-service technology, homebuilding software solutions will continue to elevate the process, relationships, and customer experience.
Zoe Miller is a principal at Computer Presentation Systems in the Sacramento, Calif. area. The more than 25-year veteran of the homebuilding industry sets the company’s development strategies and oversees its daily operations.