Explore how builders are rethinking client engagement
As customer experience, or CX, becomes a buzzword in the corporate world, construction firms are taking the principles of CX to heart in order to turn their clients into evangelists.
Patterson Custom Homes is on a mission to reinvent the construction experience. That’s because the traditional new home construction process has given general contractors (GCs) a bad rap. Typically, clients work with an architect to design their dream home, only to be stunned when construction bids from GCs come in way over budget and timelines stretch.
Patterson aims to restore faith in GCs by beginning its relationship with clients as early in the process as possible, often before the client even has a lot. The Orange County, California, builder helps clients select an architect who fits their aesthetic and budget, tracks costs during the schematic design phase, and then provides personalized service during and even after construction.
Some builders are distinguishing themselves by helping clients select an architect, tracking costs, and providing personalized service during and even after construction.
“The feel and the experience that we want our clients to have is that they’re not just hiring a general contractor who could build their home and then walk away,” says Brittany Newman, Patterson’s director of marketing, client relations, and acquisitions.
The impact of customer experience on the bottom line
Patterson is focused on differentiating themselves by rethinking customer experience — the entire set of interactions that clients have with their builder or remodeler. Construction firms are taking the principles of customer experience, or CX, to heart in order to turn their clients into evangelists.
Those thrilled customers can turn into free word-of-mouth marketing that can have a big impact on your bottom line, says Grace Mase, founder and CEO of BEYREP, a project management tool and app that also functions as a matchmaker for pros and potential clients.
Thrilled customers can turn into free word-of-mouth marketing that can have a big impact on your bottom line.
“When your customers are happy with your brand, they develop brand loyalty and affinity,” Mase says. “And then they will start to refer your brand or your products and services to their friends and families and also leave positive reviews. And ultimately, you’ll have more business just by word of mouth, which is free of charge for you.”
Mase sees customer experience as a two-part recipe: people and service. “How do you delight your customer with your service?” she asks. “And are your customers blown away by your engagement on how you helped to solve their problem, either on or off the job site?”
Infusing customer experience throughout your organization
Thomas James Homes makes customer experience part of its core values. The Aliso Viejo, California, firm is the nation’s largest single-lot, new home replacement builder. Vice president of sales and marketing Gina Nixon says the company realized it could create a better customer experience by bringing the buyer in earlier, at the design stage. The company calls it “Build on Our Homesite.”
“If a buyer comes to us and enters into escrow early, they go through a full, one-on-one, custom design process,” Nixon says. “It starts from our already cultivated design package. We let the home buyer understand what is included in the price of the package that they purchased and then customize it however they want.” And last year, the builder launched the new “Build on Your Homesite” option that allows clients to start even earlier.
The goal, Nixon says, is to reduce the stress of urban life for the company’s buyers and to treat everybody like family.
Speedier customer support
Customer experience isn’t the same as customer service. As Nixon puts it, customer experience is emotional, while customer service is all about the deliverables. And of course, delivering great customer service plays an integral role in creating a satisfying customer experience.
At JELD-WEN, the customer service team has developed an enhanced support program for builders and contractors called JELD-WEN Site Support. The program’s goal is to provide pros with faster access to a technician. Pros receive a dedicated number backed by actual technicians who use an app called OnSite that allows them to collaborate using the pro’s camera and phone.
“They’re able to zoom in, zoom out, take videos,” explains Rob Wollemann, JELD-WEN’s director of customer care for North America. “And it’s collaborative, so we could point to things on our screen, draw an arrow, or circle something. And the user on the other end sees that and they can do the same thing. It’s a really collaborative experience that basically allows us to troubleshoot in real time with the customer.”
The primary use case is for building professionals to more quickly resolve product glitches, either on the phone or with only one site visit by a technician. The goal is for pros to feel fully supported, like JELD-WEN is there on the job site with them. And by choosing suppliers with dedicated support like JELD-WEN, building pros can enhance their own clients’ experience.
Leaving a lasting impression
The Patterson team can also imagine applications for the OnSite tool after the sale because it’s a perfect fit with the builder’s long-term, preventive home maintenance program called Custom Care. This is a proprietary software program that takes a home’s specifications and develops a suggested maintenance program. Homeowners are automatically reminded when systems need service, and they can easily email Patterson’s customer care manager or get quotes and schedule service through the digital interface.
JELD-WEN® IWP® Aurora® fiberglass doors feature dozens of luxurious woodgrain finishes, incomparable hardware and glass options, and the durability to stand up to any climate.
Patterson currently performs an annual door and window inspection to identify any issues and parts or repairs that are needed to keep the units functioning like brand new, so a program like OnSite could help the builder identify and expedite parts and repairs.
For Patterson, the Custom Care program provides a lasting reminder of the entire customer experience life cycle, cementing clients as brand advocates for the Patterson family. Patterson’s homes have even become more desirable upon resale as the builder has gained a reputation for standing by its homes even after the homes sell.
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