The challenge for any manager trying to determine an adequate staff size to meet a workload…while staying within budget…is to have just enough people to keep everyone busy and productive…yet not too many people so that anyone stands around.

When the customer service department of a homebuilder is viewed this way, however, the only possible outcome is mediocrity in providing quality and service…because a compromise always exists between cost and quality.

A simple pie-chart illustrates the dilemma here.  If a pie is divided up into three equal pieces…labeled cost, quality, and time…as a practical matter as one piece is expanded then the size of one or both of the remaining pieces is reduced.  This graphic illustration is used in explaining the perimeters in building construction…but it applies to new housing construction customer service as well.

In building construction…a company cannot go fast, build cheap, and produce the best quality product…at the same time.

A company in a particular building type and business niche can choose to be inexpensive…but quality will go down if time remains constant.  In the pie-chart example…cost is more important and its size increases…time stays the same…but the piece of pie that is quality gets smaller in size proportional to the increased emphasis placed on cost… in the company management approach.

For the construction of a new high-end luxury house…quality and cost expand…but the construction takes longer.  Looking at the pie-chart…if quality and cost are the most important their size will increase…and the consideration of time in the management approach must decrease…its pie size will diminish accordingly.

If a building construction projects falls behind schedule…it usually costs more to accelerate the work for some period of time to bring the construction back on schedule.  The management decision here is always: “do we want to spend more money to buy back the time we have lost?”  Or, said another way: “is time now more important than money?”  In this example the piece of the pie called time gets larger…and the management consideration of cost is reduced in favor of bring the project schedule back on line.

Applying this graphic analogy to customer service for new housing construction…the obvious reality is that if prompt service is a given…is a fixed size pie piece that cannot be reduced in importance…then the only other pieces of the pie chart left are quality and cost.

If the budget line-item for customer service field staff is cut in the main office as a management decision…in other words the size of the pie piece labeled cost is increased because it is judged to be more important than quality…then the size of the quality piece of the pie will decrease…and customer service quality…including the pre-walkthrough prep phase fine-tuning the units…will suffer.