The demand for new homes last year was high. However, we did face challenges in the industry. The pandemic led to reduced supply of materials and increased prices, restrictions on number of people at a job site, and of course, we’re still a trades shortages. All of this contributing to extending the build cycle.
Despite the issues on the supply side, the expectations is that this year demand will be even higher. People are buying homes and they want to get into them quickly. Given the constraints how can you set expectations and meet the demand?
Capacity to Start/Complete Homes is Limited
- Trades - Do you need more subcontractors to meet the expectations you have set with your buyers? Make sure you can view your upcoming starts and see potential bottlenecks. You need to figure out what it’s going to take to get the subs you need.
- Financing - Do you need to increase your credit facilities or find new banks to increase your capacity? Credit lines should match anticipated sales and spec projections. Try to avoid banks that want to dictate the relationship and want to be the only player in your game. You need flexibility.
- Project Management – Don’t outpace the capacity of your construction managers. You’ll pay for it with poor quality, bad reviews, and increased warranty costs.
Importance of Reporting: Track, Report, & Take Action Based on Real Data
- Look at pre-Construction and construction schedules need realistic timelines, which is dependent on each municipality or community.
- Key Milestones and figure out how to share in meaningful way with your team and homebuyers.
- Production Capacity. Understand your starts and project potential bottlenecks. You need to have an efficient and timely method to track the status of each home and communication each home and communicate the information throughout the organization so you can take action.
- Variance. Look at schedule, cost, and margin variance tracking. You must establish a baseline in the beginning and track variance in real-time to avoid compounding the same issue again and again.
Efficient and visible as possible throughout the organization.
Plan and Start Projects on the Right Foot
- Make sure there is a formal hand-off from sales when a contract is signed. Don’t rush--have 100% complete information before you start the process. Changes downstream can have a big impact.
- Before you do anything, make sure you have a detailed plan in place. Evaluate and create a schedule for your prestart process. From the moment a contract is signed, every single event has an activity on the production schedule. The work you do upfront will save you time, money, rework, and headaches later.
- Identify the most significant bottleneck downstream and don’t release homes faster than you can complete that constraint. For example, if you can only frame two homes a day, you won’t close more than two houses a day. That greatest constraint will dictate your throughput. Find out what it is and adjust for it.
Create Consistent Communication Customer Channels
As you set your expectations for your customer, it’s important create consistency. Do you want clear communication channels or reputation management?
- Establish one company voice. Live your values and everyone understands. Regardless of who you’re working with—bankers, trades, or customers—everyone is using the same language.
- You need to develop company departments without borders. It’s not my job or your job...it’s our job. Your customer is at the hub and communication across channels around that.
- Set expectations early, often & clearly. Website, online sales counselor, sales team all the way through. If it needs to be in writing, put it in writing. People sometimes are thinking.
- Create seamless handoffs. When you’re ‘handing someone off’, you’re handing a person over to someone else on the team. Make sure to share that information with the coworker so they have a better understanding of who that person is.
- Regularly communicate by a schedule. Figure out a schedule of all the calls in the process and end with a joint call with sales, construction, and the customer.
- Implement looping. Make sure you have a champion to close the communication loop at different stages to avoid gaps and black holes that can creep into the process when it’s not properly done.
- Avoid “Waiting for the other shoe to drop”. Life is very different for customers now—so it’s important to communicate issues right away to build trust.
Automate Regular Personal Touches and Project Updates
During the build process, you want to keep your customers excited about their new home
- Create a plan for customer communications. You want them to feel like one-to-one communication between you and the prospect.
- Increase your bandwidth by automating the communications with a CRM. Create a store of content based on the standard build cycle and timeframe. Map the content to the process.
- Monitor communications – You don’t want a message to go out saying the home is ready for a walk-through when you're still going through framing.
Elicit Customer Feedback during the Entire Build Process
Even though the market is quite active right now and expected to pick up in the Spring, you still need to focus on keeping your customers happy. You can’t manage what you can’t measure applies to customer experience as it does to other areas of the business.
It’s important to remember:
- The easiest sale is a referred prospect. Current and past customers have impact on future success than ever before with referrals and online reviews. It’s going to be harder to out-market a one- or two-star reputation.
- Utilize regular check-ins with buyers throughout the build process and beyond to monitor and optimize the homebuyer experience.
- By identifying issues early on, you can take corrective action to re-engage the buyer and change the tone. This helps you monitor the temperature of each buyer and can also provide in-depth insights to help you drive more sales, increase brand awareness and identify areas of success.
- Survey everyone throughout the process and the organization. You can survey a number of areas:
- sales experience
- design experience
- mid-Construction Experience
- Move-In Experience
- Warranty/Mid-Year Experience
- Year-End Experience
And don’t forget to also get trade partner feedback and employee feedback surveys.