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Almost 80% of customers expect consistency across departments when they’re interacting with a company, according to the 2019 State of the Connected Customer Report by Salesforce.

Is your team hitting that expectation?

According to this same report, 60% of customers see most companies as having siloed departments rather than one cohesive system.

What does this tell us?

Businesses who aren’t already using an ERP system that syncs across departments must innovate or they’ll get left behind. But what if you’re not sure how to use certain functions? Attending the Tech Lab at the Build Smarter 2019 Conference will help you out with that because it’s not just about having the software.

It’s about knowing how to maximize efficiency so that every department is working as one big system.

For example, if there’s a breakdown of information from the sales center to the purchasing department, the homebuyer isn’t going to have sympathy for you. This applies to all data that travels across departments. So, making sure that every department knows how to use the ERP efficiently is paramount.

Homebuyers see that through the experience they’re going through starting from their first interaction with your company all the way to referral sales. Based on the same Salesforce report, 84% of customers say the experience they had with the company they bought from is just as important as its products or services. That’s 4% up from last year’s report.

It’s safe to say that if your departments aren’t working together to create an exceptional experience for your homebuyer, then you should start thinking about it now.

When you get a ticket to the Build Smarter 2019 Conference, you’ll be able to spend time at our Tech Lab to clarify information about features, clear up any confusions you had, and ask about functionalities you’d like to know more about. It would be like having a live product specialist at your side all day.

The conference will be held on November 18-20th at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Hotel in Scottsdale, Arizona where hundreds of North America’s most information-hungry builders will attend. Whether you’re in marketing, sales, estimating, purchasing, warranty, customer success, or leadership, this conference will help you be more efficient day-to-day.

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Decoding Today’s Home Buyer, and So Much More.

The Build Smarter 2019 Conference is just around the corner, kicking off on Nov. 18 in Scottsdale, Arizona. This year’s event will take place amidst a much more positive outlook than the industry experienced in the recent past. According to a report from Wells Fargo, “The outlook for residential construction in 2019 is improving versus late 2018, and there are sufficient tailwinds to carry the industry through any near-term economic turbulence.”

That’s very good news. It also makes this an interesting time to be a builder. We’re entering a ‘now or never’ reality in which builders must adopt new ways to market, manage, and communicate – or risk getting left behind. Critically, they also find themselves catering to a whole new class of home buyers that are accustomed to convenience and personalization in the digital age.

To that point, we’ve themed this year’s conference, The Expectation Revolution: Exploring Building Trends, Technology, and Innovation for the Evolving Home Buyer, featuring an agenda packed with fresh content, education, and technical training. Here’s a taste of what’s to come, including five discoveries attendees can uncover at Build Smarter 2019.

(Check out the full agenda and registration details at the Build Smarter Conference site)

#1:  Buyer behavior is radically changing, and we’ve got the data to prove it.

The building industry is experiencing an expectation revolution, driven by highly-discerning home buyers. It can be difficult to know when and how to adapt your business to keep pace. Understanding buyer expectations takes the right strategy and insights. In our keynote, Decoding Today’s Home Buyer, Mollie Carmichael, principal with Meyers Research, will join us to reveal the latest home buyer data to help you understand their evolving demographics, preferences, and expectations.

(For more on 2019 Industry Predictions and Building Trends presented to you by Meyers Research, try our webinar, “2019 Industry Predictions and Building Trends”.

#2:  Digital innovation has impacted the home shopping journey – just ask the buyers.

According to a Builder Online article, millennials are set to finally enter the housing market in a very big way, stating, “aging millennials are set to close the headship rate gap with prior generations – likely driving steady long-term growth in residential new construction.”

That’s one explanation for drastic changes in builder/buyer interactions – from the way buyers search for listings, to how they view homes, and how they prefer to interact before, during, and after the sale. The whole industry is undergoing a digital transformation urged by consumers that are digitally-savvy and always on-the-go. How do you respond?

We’ve put together a variety of sessions to help builders tackle this trend from the inside out. In a live Q&A session during our Innovation Panel, attendees will hear from real-life home buyers, builders, and industry experts about how innovation has impacted their personal journey and experience.

We’ll also present Social Media: 5 Tips from Builders, a how-to session on Maximizing Your Online Marketing and Listing Exposure, and bring in a design expert to talk about New Design Trends and Tools – packed with ideas to help you ride the digital wave, expand your online presence, and attract a steady stream of buyers to your listings.

#3:  The market is unpredictable, but you can rise above it.

As every builder understands, there are many factors that are beyond control. It can be difficult to know how to evolve in an unpredictable market. Luckily, builders have access to a secret weapon – and it lives right next door. Your customer is a powerful asset to sharing the insights you need.

In our Live Builder Interview: Marketing & Sales Strategies to Win Home Buyers and Earn Trust Forever, a builder will share their strategies for attracting buyers in an often-unpredictable market, and how to build positive customer relationships throughout the process.

We’ll continue the discussion in Best Ways to Earn Referrals and Transform Your Customer Experience, as well as our Builder Panel: Finding Your ‘Aha’ Moment from Customer Feedback. Guests will learn from our CustomerInsight expert how to acquire and translate customer feedback, and hear first-hand from builders how they walk alongside their homebuyers and use what they learned as a catalyst for process and business transformation.

#4:  Trade management can either be a thorn in your side or a chance to excel.

According to a recent NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Marketing Index survey, the availability of labor is the leading concern for builders in 2019. Issues with trade management have long plagued builders, often resulting in delayed closings, construction quality issues, and diminished customer trust. Builders must keep projects running smoothly to ensure they are prioritized by the most dependable trades, as well as proactively pinpoint quality concerns.

This is an issue we’ll tackle in one of our Builder University sessions, The Top 3 Challenges of Trade Management. In this session, a builder will share what approaches they find most useful for fostering a positive builder/trade relationship, and talk about the best tools to use to improve trade communication and management.

For effective methods to enhance your trade management, try “5 Keys to Effective Trade Management”.

#5:  Relevant builders understand how to bridge the gap between construction and technology.

From evolving expectations to digital disruption, we know the industry is rapidly changing. We don’t want you to simply survive, we want you to thrive. Our goal is to give you the power to build smarter, equipping you with the technology and data you need to remain agile to adapt and grow. Constellation’s solutions help you bridge the gap between technology and construction, and our Build Smarter Conference reflects this approach. Ultimately, we know you need hands-on training to get the most out of your technology investment. With a myriad of software training seminars, our tech lab, and product user groups, you’ll gain the best practices, tools, and technical know-how you need to improve and grow your business.

To learn more about the Build Smarter 2019 Conference, read the press release, watch the video, or visit our conference registration site.  We hope to see you there!

Resources:

Navigating Volatility in the U.S. Residential New Construction Sector, © 2019 Wells Fargo Securities and L.E.K. Consulting

Report: 2019 Will Be Good for New Home Building, February 19, 2019, BuilderOnline.com,  Builders: Materials in 2018, Labor in 2019, March 18, 2019, NAHB

Chaluvadi, Ashok, Top Challenges for Builders: Materials in 2018, Labor in 2019, March 18, 2019, NAHB

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Customer experience leaders weigh in on the best methods for tracking and improving the homeowner experience. 

When 87% percent of home builders expect to earn new business through word of mouth referrals, excellent customer experience is not only a company attribute, it’s a success metric.

The homeowner journey is the logical and emotional perception your buyers and homeowners have of you during the sales, construction, the home closing process, and long into home ownership. This means that customer experience is a team effort that needs to be planned and measured for effectiveness with your sales teams, your construction teams, your internal members and your warranty agents.

Understanding Your Homeowners at Critical Moments

Every company handles surveys and uses that information to learn more about themselves, their brand, and the product. Homeowner surveys are excellent ways to understand the complex and long process of bringing a home to market from the customers’ eyes. Customer experience professionals recommend at least 3 surveys: a survey during the construction process, a survey a few days after the home closing day, and a survey 1 year after home closing.

The reasoning behind this is simple, the survey during construction is set to understand the worries homeowners might have about the plan for construction and your company’s overall sales performance. A survey after home possession is far more accurate than the day of home closing since it illustrates a genuine critique untainted by the excitement of getting their new home.  The final survey is set far into the future after home closing, to get the homeowner thinking about you collectively and about how you handle warranty claims. By gauging your homeowners at the moments where they are most vulnerable, you can expect to get a true reflection of how your organization handles those key home building milestones critical to production. The image below helps illustrate the varying levels of homeowner satisfaction throughout their journey. Advanced home builders are indeed measuring their success by the weakest links in their process where the homeowners are most vulnerable.

homeowner Journey

Analyzing your Customer Care Performance and Automating Processes

All team members should work together with the goal of “making your homeowners dreams a reality”. As a company, track and learn from comments in the surveys discussed earlier to gauge your employees. Great comments should be celebrated, and negative comments should be learned from and used as motivation for future sales and interactions. As leadership, making customer experience a discussion or a “nice to have” in your company culture isn’t enough. You need to implement a quantifiable way of measuring each members performance through the customer satisfaction surveys, as well as reward the key performers by giving them a higher stake financially within your company based on that performance. Instead of rewarding sales representatives who bring new business, realize all employees act as facilitators of the business relationship with homeowners. After all, your homeowners are likely interacting with many team members outside of your sales team.

Giving your team members the right tools to serve customers is also crucial, the right to earn a homeowner’s referral is fermented long after the home is sold, built or owned. Homes today carry a hefty price and therefore homeowners mandate the builder be involved in fixing it for cases that are related to its manufacturing. Leaders in customer experience are known to have implemented technology solutions such as online homeowner portals for assistance with warranty claims. Popular with developers in the high-rise condominium business due to the volume of potential warranty claims in a smaller setting compared to a residential neighborhood, the concept can also be applied to detached communities and everything in between. Homeowner portals not only simplify your organizational method for warranty but also allow you to help your homeowners to help themselves first with an online manual.

Competing in Customer Experience

A little healthy competition doesn’t hurt! Getting together with your peer builders is an excellent way to exchange ideas and to further understand the different techniques home builders are using to make their clients’ dreams come true. The CustomerInsight Home Owner Mark of Excellence Award is an event that allows homeowners to publicly assess their builders and trades and recognize the best of the best. Although a company should strive to improve amongst itself, awarding the best of the best allows builders to share ideas, celebrate wins, and provides an industry benchmark to aim for year over year.

The Mark of Excellence Home Awards

The H.O.M.E. Awards is an annual competition that celebrates excellence in home ownership experience. Each year, the industry’s top home builders and trade partners are honored by their customers at this prestigious event. Winners of these awards are builders who strive to not only build beautiful homes for their customers but to ensure the best possible experience every step of the way. These builders represent excellence in both products and services in the residential building industry. The Awards are named after those who matter most, the Home Owners.

Click below to attend this red carpet event and learn more about customer experience with your peers in home building.

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The residential housing market is healthy, but there will be obstacles during 2019. Prices for new homes may be slowing but there still will be a great opportunity for home builders with the right strategy for the upcoming year based on what builders have learned from 2018.

Residential home builders and developers learned many great lessons in 2018. News headlines suggest that new home prices are declining but the market will still be competitive going into 2019. Coupled with advances in technology, the labor shortage affecting all blue-collar industries, and new emerging trends in home building – builders have many topics to consider for the coming year. Read the top 4 topics builders will face in 2019 and what builders need to know about them to prepare.

A Strong Building Process Will Be Paramount

In a thriving market, home builders may feel safe that their products are a sure sell, but as prices begin to cool and competition rises – you can bet your market competition is coming up with new ways to bring on new homeowners. Whether it is perfectly aligned construction schedules to maximize building efficiency or a customer experience that will have homeowners referring you to their friends and family, expect technology to become part of the solution. With a tight process, expect homebuilders to become more scientific with the way they do business, reports will become their best tool under their belts. For example, for your sales team – tracking monthly new home sales and upgrade sales by each sales representative could make for a competitive company culture. In regards to bidding and purchasing, perhaps establishing a report on costs for resource versus the cost of production could allow you to make better decisions when selecting vendors for your homes’ materials. In accounting, a high-level dashboard report for projected revenue could also become a critical tool for executives to understand the overall company performance. Assigning metrics to each building functions role will become paramount as home building processes take a methodical transformation, with home production optimization comes growth for the builder.

For the complete guide on selecting and growing your building firm through integrated management software, read the complete “Homebuilder E-Guide: Selecting Management Software”.

Labor Shortages – Getting Creative During Construction

Construction and scheduling trades are critical phases in a home builders’ job. It is what brings homes to market for homeowners. The current state of affair for builders is finding the right trades who are committed and fair in terms of their compensation. Due to the lack of interest from millennials in the trades and their higher educational qualifications in comparison to their parents (baby boomers), expect the labor shortage to last a while unless the societal outlook changes on blue collar labor. Expect pre-fabricated housing to emerge as a staple supply chain asset for homebuilders. Manufacturing companies have already come into market and operate as factory line warehouses that manufacture the different parts of homes. The home frame, roof, panels, and decks will all become manufactured offsite and shipped to the lot for assembly. The role of operations managers and superintendents will become more paramount as their role becomes more logistics based than technical in terms of managing home builds.

Interior Customization and Home Upgrades

Interior décor and amenities for new home buyers have become the new expectations from building firms. Home buyers desire the experience of going to a home builders sales office and choosing the different finishes to customize their home interior. Managing these décor appointments also is proving to have taken an interesting turn for 2019. We are seeing many new technologies appearing in design studios, virtual reality has been a tool to showcase alternate finishes to homeowners, we are seeing tablets and mobiles used for quick spec lookups on products. Even the main process has become automated, the focus is now on homeowners and their wishes. As interior décor catalogues become digitized, digital product libraries are helping builders serve contracts to homeowners quicker than ever.

For the complete guide on design studio trends developing in the residential homebuilding industry, read “Top 2019 Design Studio Trends for Homebuilders”.

Navigating a Lucrative Market in 2019

Although the headlines regarding real estate costs are telling us there will be a slowdown in the housing market, the market itself is steady and great for business. There are few factors at play here, Americans are generally feeling good with their job security, the employment to builder permit ratio is above average across the country, and millennials are also entering the homebuyer market and surprisingly choosing to move farther out from the main city’s and selecting smaller entry-level homes in comparison to their parents, the baby boomers. The vacancies in trade jobs have allowed trades professionals to capitalize on the job crater. This intern is driving up costs for builders and ultimately home buyers. Although prices and new homes sales are decelerating don’t expect the market to collapse! During a market like this one, it is time to consider all facets of the business of home building. Customer experience is no longer optional but an edge that will determine which builders gain control of the various markets. Process becomes crucial and the technology driving it as time becomes of the essence during construction, the lack of skilled labor will also pose a choice for builders as their trade base evolves to include wholesale building material manufacturers. One thing can definitively be said, this market will require creativity and commitment to all facets of home building.

For 2019 residential market statistics and opinions from building executives – watch the webinar on “2019 Industry Predictions and Building Trends”.

 

The Verdict

The market is healthy for homebuilders but there will be challenges along the way. Regardless of the challenge, whether it is dialling in a steady construction process, optimizing building strategies to bypass the lack of available trades, or optimizing your customer experience and product selection to cater to the wishes of homeowners. Builders will need to get creative in the business, embrace innovation and technology, and keep homeowners at the forefront of everything they do.

Sources - Why Millennials are Not Interested in Trade Jobs

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87% percent of home builders expect to compete in their market based on customer experience, here are immediate tips to align your company mission correctly for increased referrals.

The Case for Improving Your Customer Experience

With 87% percent of home builders expecting to earn new business through word of mouth referrals, excellent customer experience could be the new frontier for home builders to improve the way they do business. Although there is a surge in new home sales demand and the home builder’s willingness to compete through customer experience, how well equipped are home builders in handling homeowner demands? Citing a popular study from The North American Homebuilders Association, it is evident that while home builders have made investments in technology to improve their overall operations, the same can’t be said for tracking customer satisfaction with home builders at an 18% adoption rate nationally. On the other hand, giving homeowners the ability to monitor their home construction is also at a low 22%. Read the following tips to immediately change how your company handles the homeowner journey and improve company ratings.

Chart

Source – NAHB.org

1.      Focus on The Customer’s Lifestyle Instead of “Selling”

This first tip is powerful as it can be implemented into your sales and customer care process immediately. While a concrete sales process from outside sales to interior décor upgrades is critical to the bottom line of your business, training your realtors and sales on a human approach is key to winning their hearts and earning their referral. NAHB also cites that a homebuilder’s referral market often constitutes 80 percent of their new sales. Therefore, the way we approach potential home buyers needs to be optimized. Train your sales team to build a rapport with new homeowners, keep them in check during all steps of the building cycle, and answer their calls and requests promptly. For example, during the sales and decor appointment, train sales to understand the type of family or homeowner they are selling to, understand their budget, and what they are comfortable with in terms of upgrades. For example, if they are a young couple looking for their first home, perhaps these homeowners are willing to sacrifice home space but will opt-in for better amenities such as high-end appliances. Another example is serving a family with children, this type of prospect might look for upgrades around the home that revolve around family gatherings such as a kitchen island, child-friendly appliances or perhaps more lot space altogether. All this will improve the products you serve them, and the amount of time second-guessing is reduced in your sales discussions. Consider creating content for your new home models with applicable home interior upgrades to allow your homeowners to create a mental Wishlist of what to expect when buying from you, try to build these upgrade packages based around your ideal types of homebuyers and sell that lifestyle. A home reflects the owner’s desires and lifestyle, by closely reading what selections they are gravitating towards in the décor appointment, you can make educated guesses to the styles they may also prefer. At any given moment in the sales process or at the design center, always prioritize the comfort of the customer based on their desires.

2.      Communication Goes A Long Way

Communication is key during the sales, construction, interior decors appointments, and during the big day that is home closing. But the Homeowner journey does not end there, one of our clients Lokal Homes, a builder ranked 138 on the top 200 builders list, has a pre-established roadmap for all their sales and warranty professional abide by.

You will notice that in their roadmap, communication does not break off from homeowners after the home closing, as a matter of fact, their employees are encouraged and incentivized to promptly follow up in a form of a letter or satisfaction survey post-home possession. The moments beyond the home closing are when homeowners tell you the truth about your builder brand and whether you can count on their referral.

3.      Provide the Right Tools, Listen, Collect the Data, and Evolve

In the last couple of years, we have observed the home builders leading the way in customer experience pay close attention to their negative reviews first. These builders turn their negatives into a positive to increase their customer rates and referrals. They also have a standardized customer journey assessment process and implement surveys before and after home closing. To get qualitative and quantitative results, they measure success and homeowner’s dissatisfactions over a period and learn from the feedback. This can also become a powerful motivator for your team members, incentivize your sales and customer care representative to go above and beyond for homeowners. Reward great performance and improve poor performance.

To learn more how production homebuilders are reviewing, assessing, and reorienting their process to suite a positive homeowner experience, try “Builder Interview with HoneyField Homes”.

Many consumers claim that they are willing to switch brands if they find that the company is unknowledgeable or unable to serve their customers. Home building is the same! But in our industry, failing the customer could mean the loss of a future referral sale. Ensure your team is trained on all your products and that all your interior upgrade packages have warranty information that is easily accessible by homeowners. Some of the clients who are on national heights have even invested in homeowner care portals also found as part of our CustomerInsight suite of solutions. Follow the link to learn more.

The Verdict

Being emotionally involved first with your homeowners during your sales and warranty process is key to attracting and nurturing homeowner relationships that translate to referrals and more sales! Establish a road-map for your sales, construction, and customer care processes where your homeowner will receive critical updates from a selected representative of your company. Keep your client facing teams armed with product knowledge and customer first with the right incentives. Track and monitor your performance as a company and on an individual level, celebrate wins and learn to change your process for reoccurring issues. Finally, allow your homeowners to have accessibility, homeowner warranty tools can limit stress on your claims department and allow your homeowners to feel safer and self-sufficient.

Sources

Builders’ and Remodelers’ Use of Information Technology – NAHB.org

5 Smart Business Tactics for Growing Your Building Firm – ProBuilder.com

Businesses Lose $75 Billion Due To Poor Customer Service – Forbes.com

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