Update: The Importance of Proactive Service, Home Builder Edition
March 2, 2017
Setting expectations are so important for the success of your business! Word will get around quick if your integrity is out and you can’t keep your word. Clients don’t ever want to feel like you don’t care about them, and that why proactive customer service is one of the best things you can do to stay connected with your clients.
As I’ve mentioned before, we are nearing the end of building our dream home and my new Charisma Communications office space. Which is good because we were initially told that we would be in the house by the end of January, then the end of February, then early March and finally (I hope) the end of March. We moved into temporary housing in a new city where we know no one with two crazy dogs in tow.
Let’s be honest, tensions are pretty high around here. So we need to feel a little love from our builder and get them to follow through on what they say so we can really start enjoying our new town. Instead, one day we’re told once you get this form it's 30 days until close (imagine our excitement) then we get that form and it’s nearly 45 days until close. We were livid and disappointed because this completely contradicted the paperwork we received at signing the P&S agreement, what the contractor said for moving in, and what the sales and service rep had just said a couple days before.
We did what any customer would do when they see that things aren’t adding up. We contacted the service team that night and told them that this was unacceptable and that someone needed to call us as soon as possible.
Now my approach to service is a bit different, as I said in my first post about the importance of proactive customer service you don’t need to have the full answer to follow up and let the customer know you’re working on their inquiry; just don’t let there be a prolonged silence. Well, that is yet again NOT what happened.
We knew that out of the six people on the email at least one person had to have seen it. And yet we didn’t get a phone call until they felt they had their ducks in a row around 4 pm the following day. Four O’clock in the afternoon on a Friday! NOT OKAY. We felt ignored. We got angrier, and the longer it took the closer we got to saying forget it and walking away from the entire project because we could buy another house we liked and close in a timely manner.
That said, one of the best tips you can give your team is to: be responsive! Your employees may think that they must have the entire answer, or any answer for that matter, for the client before they reply. This couldn't be further from the truth. I recommend creating a habit around email and follow up. Don’t make customers feel like they don’t matter because you’ve gotten their money. You don’t want them to even think about walking away from doing business with you.
The first step is to acknowledge the customer's email and give a timeline for when you will get back to them. Let your buyers know that you're actively working on what they asked you for. Obviously, you don't want to miss your own deadline!
But, as I said our email got silence. Then we brought our realtor into it and he called corporate, then over 2 hours(!) later we finally got a call.
The local Sales Director explained the delay was because the hardwood floors were on back order. She asked if we knew about this. No! Did you? If so, why not contact us as soon as you knew that to see if we wanted to pick something else that was available or if we were okay with the wait.
Best Practice: Proactive customer service always involves the buyer in the decision!
At least they did try to make it right for us since our mortgage rate lock they approved us for was going to get blown. They offered to pay for the difference in cost for an extension. This will cost them several thousand dollars to do when a little proactive service could have saved them big time!
I would have expected a clear outline of next steps and what else would happen if they can’t make the new closing date, but-unfortunately-I know who I’m dealing with. So prayers and fingers crossed, that we close at the end of the month as they promised. Until then, here’s a sneak peek into the new Charisma Communications office décor!