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Thursday, September 04, 2008

Real customer satisfaction -- two simple solutions

Marc Thibeault, of J.D. Power and Associates (right) presents a plaque recognizing Mattamy Homes as the best 2008 Ottawa area builder for customer satisfaction to Troy van Haastrecht, president of Mattamy’s Ottawa operations, at the Greater Ottawa Home Builders' Association (GOHBA) Customer Service Awards evening.

Here are two simple things you can do to really increase your client satisfaction -- and your genuine brand/market effectiveness -- without paying much, if any more than you are presently spending on marketing.
  1. Keep your job sites clean, every day.
  2. Communicate the job's progress through regular reports to your clients.
Marc Thibault, real estate practice leader at the Canadian office of J.D. Power and Associates, communicated these suggestions at the annual Customer Service Awards dinner at the Greater Ottawa Home Builders' Association last night. J.D. Power conducts a 62-point survey of home builders each year, and compiles a report with observations that could put fear or pride in the heart of local builders.

Many of Thibault's observations are local in nature and appropriately will be reported in detail in The Impact!, the GOHBA newsletter we publish under contract, rather than this blog. But I found his observations and suggestions about communication and cleanliness to have widespread and easy-to-implement effectiveness for your business.

"Job site cleanliness is the number one driver of the metric" of the second most important aspect of client satisfaction -- the work of the construction/site team, Thibeault said. (Other important elements on the construction site include speedy resolution of problems, the thoroughness of he pre-delivery inspection, contractors appearance and dress, and their courtesy and patience.)

The most important metric for client satisfaction is "home readiness" -- that is, when the project is handed over to the purchaser, it is really finished and defect free. Thibeault suggested many problems are occurring in client satisfaction when, in the rush to complete the work and hand it over to the purchaser, the project isn't totally complete. The site and home readiness aspects combine to produce 47 per cent of the client satisfaction indicators -- suggesting these two elements are vital to a successful project.

But what about communication? Thibeault said the survey data shows a truly marked increase in performance and client satisfaction from clients who receive regular progress reports from their builder, implying that it may be better in some cases to communicate well and complete the project late (and complete) than rush it to stay on schedule. (I didn't ask Thibeault this question, but it might have been a good one to check; whether, if you know you are running into delays, to give the consumer a choice -- accept occupancy on the original schedule, with the possibility of a need for increased call backs and fixes -- or delay and deliver defect free. Presumably some consumers, knowing in advance the situation, might tolerate or even embrace the post-completion problems if they are given the choice because they absolutely need to obtain occupancy and make the move, while others would be willing to wait a while for a higher level of perfection.)

At the GOHBA dinner, 28 employees received recognition as nominees for customer service excellence. Independent judges selected George Jacques of General Repairs and Renovations as the Trade Supplier Customer Service Leader and Jan Coulis of Minto Homes as the winner for Builder Construction Leader.

Thibeault said the Ottawa-area home builder satisfaction ratings overall remain flat from last year, with some builders running into problems with incomplete and unresolved problems on home completion -- presumably because they were rushing to meet delivery deadlines. Mattamy Homes ranks highest for client satisfaction in the Ottawa market.

See the J.D. Power news release here.

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