The large homebuilders I worked for in the past all talked a good line when it came to quality construction and customer service, but none of them actually committed the resources of time, manpower, and money to match their rhetoric.
The fact is…a customer service crew does not make money for the company. Unlike automobile dealerships with service departments that can charge the customer for service and repairs, builders do not charge new homebuyers for repair work. Customer service is thus an expense that generates no direct income to the builder. Therefore, some homebuilders try to get their jobsite superintendents to do customer service as well as run the construction…because the superintendents are already an existing expense on the jobsite.
The value of good quality construction and prompt customer service is difficult to measure…because at its functional best it is primarily preventive rather than reactive. How do we measure the value of preventing dissatisfied homebuyers and potential future lawsuits?
A new homebuyer who generates a customer service request list of 20 minor things to fix within the first month of occupancy…might be permanently disappointed and still dissatisfied no matter how quickly the builder responds and repairs those items. Prompt customer service often can only bring the new homebuyer from the state of being dissatisfied back to the neutral point of just being merely satisfied…but not positive and upbeat about their new home purchase and the homebuilder.
The initial first impression of quality at the time of the homebuyer walkthrough sets the tone for the entire customer service relationship with the new homebuyer. If the new homebuyer sees that the builder has put in the time and effort to turn out a quality product for the walkthrough…the sense of well-being created by this first impression lasts throughout the warranty period…even when some items need to be repaired or replaced after occupancy.
But if the builder’s representative during the walkthrough must make numerous excuses for why a door stop is missing, a window screen is on back-order, and the painter will be back tomorrow to do more needed touchup…the new homebuyer does not feel important or valued by the builder. The new homebuyer may never recover from this first negative impression of betrayal of trust as to expectations…no matter how good customer service call-back responses are in the future.
Over the last few years…quality-control and customer service appear to have received more attention in housing construction…or at least in the public advertising rhetoric of large homebuilders…I suppose mainly because of the need to find new ways to attract new buyers.
The topics in upcoming blogs for a few weeks will focus on pointing out problem areas in customer service to help homebuilders create more effective customer service crews.