It’s All About Expectations

Setting clear and proper expectations can be the difference between a customer being a Raving Fan, or being raving mad.

by Mark Hodges

Recently, I was talking with an Avid client whose Avid Reports indicated a serious gap in their homebuyers’ assessments of “being kept informed” and “communications” throughout the buying process. Further analysis of their buyer profiles gave us a good indication about why this gap was occurring. We learned that over 60% of this builder’s customers were first-time homebuyers.

Why was this discovery important? Because the experience of buying a new home is not only emotional and scary, it is also entirely mysterious. And because anxiety and frustration occur more intensely whenever someone doesn’t know what to expect from an already anxious experience.

I asked about the builder’s formal interactions with their buyers, and how they went about setting expectations for what the new home buying experience would entail. The short answer was not much. They didn’t conduct Pre-Construction Orientation Meetings, for example, and all other communications were informal. Their buyers were for the most part left to set their own expectations which were, unsurprisingly, lofty and unrealistic.

This neglect was a formula for the results they were experiencing – customers who were unhappy, not so much with their homes, which they rated highly, but with the entire experience from contract to closing and beyond. The builder wasn’t so much doing a poor job building the homes, but they were doing too little to help their customers know what to expect throughout the buying process.

Building a home of high quality is a minimum requirement for a successful homebuilder. It’s a ticket to entry in terms of achieving customer loyalty, nothing more. What sets great homebuilders apart from merely good ones is their programmatic focus on providing a great homebuying EXPERIENCE for their customers. And a great experience begins with setting clear and proper expectations, particularly for buyers who are purchasing a new home for the first time. (Which in my anecdotal experience is MOST new homebuyers!)

So, how do great builders go about setting clear and proper expectations? They do so by institutionalizing formal interactions with their buyers throughout the buying and building process. They instruct buyers on “What to expect at the Design Center”, “What to expect during the construction process”, “What to expect if you want to make changes during construction”, etc.  These formal, scripted events take the mystery out of the process, clearly explain what the buyers’ obligations are, and what could go wrong (like snowstorms or permitting delays) – essentially a list of what the buyers can and should expect while their home is being built. An informed buyer is much better prepared for the uncertainties and occasional issues that can arise during this complicated process. It’s your obligation as a builder to make the processes clear and understandable.

As Paul Cardis noted in his book Service Certainty, setting clear expectations and preparing buyers for some of the uncertainties of the buying and building process can “inoculate” your buyers against the unexpected, better preparing them for the occasional and inevitable disruptions that can cause great anxiety for the uninformed.  In short, the more they know about the process and their role in it, and what could happen, the better able they are to deal with unwanted surprises.

As I mentioned, the builder we spoke of above doesn’t conduct Pre-Construction Orientation Meetings, instead leaving the buyers to wonder why construction hasn’t started (permit delays), why they can’t change their cabinet selections even though their first choice hasn’t been installed (lead times), or why unaccompanied site inspections are prohibited (safety), etc.

Our Avid Advisors can help your company to discover best practices of effective expectation-setting and communications, and help you to implement them in your business. All you need to do is ask. We’re here to help you to create Raving Fans of your customers, and to avoid making them raving mad!

 

 

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