Beyond location, location, location

What the latest Savills/NHBC Foundation research says about priorities for new home owners and customer care in the housebuilding industry

The latest research on new home buyers has recently been released. It makes for an interesting read and raises some marketing considerations for house builders around priorities for new home owners.

But marketing needs to be supported by operational delivery, and customer care teams across the UK should be looking at the results of this research and analysing whether they can deliver on the expectations of new home buyers.

Customer segmentation

The report makes it clear that customer segmentation is more important to house builders than ever before. Changing demographics and more discerning customers means that a more sophisticated approach to planning and marketing a new home development has become imperative.

For example, in this report 36% of first time buyers were aged over 35. An older, more experienced first time buyer segment has higher expectations than the younger first times buyers of 20 years ago. This statistic also suggests that a greater proportion of first time buyers are now families with more complicated needs than the young couple of the past moving into their first home.

Also an ageing population means that there are more house buyers who are down-sizing or looking to simplify their lives, and their needs and expectations are quite different to first time buyers.

Customer care teams therefore need to be able to deal with a more sophisticated and diverse customer base and varying priorities for new home owners. They need to be skilled at managing high but differing expectations whilst also keeping an eye on the costs of doing so. This is a specialist skill that needs an understanding of the emotional, financial and even life-changing effects of buying a new home.

Core priorities

The research identifies the number one driver for the purchase of a new home as being the low maintenance benefits it offers. The other top priorities for new home owners include new home warranty, size and design of living space and energy efficiency. So the disappointment created by a new home with defects must be significant.

Wanting a perfect, shiny new home was also a high priority. New home buyers clearly have an expectation of a trouble free move into a perfect, well-built and well-designed home with little hassle. Unfortunately that hasn’t always been the case in recent years, as the press coverage of the last 12 months has demonstrated.

Things can and do go wrong when building a house, so the way a house builder deals with after care issues is just as, if not more, important than the sale process itself.

Customer care

Customer care teams need to be professional, responsive and proactive in the first few weeks after completion. Courtesy visits need to take place quickly and any issues should be identified, recorded and resolved at the first attempt. Snagging and minor defects need to be resolved quickly and to the customer’s satisfaction by trades people that understand the emotional impact of having builders traipsing around that brand new home.

More serious defects need to be managed by specialists who can manage repair projects with least possible disruption and distress for the home owner. And although new house buyers value the existence of a new home warranty when they choose a new home, they really don’t want to have to make use of it. House builders need to address and resolve serious defects quickly to save money and their reputation and to avoid a costly and time consuming warranty claim.

Building repairs management is a specialist skill that should really be carried out by experts in managing such projects and by trades people who have experience in working in peoples’ homes. Teams from construction sites have very different skills and approaches to construction that are often not appropriate for repairs in an occupied home.

This new research clearly sets out the direct link between effective customer care delivery and the key driver for new home purchase; meeting the expectation of low maintenance least hassle.

Data analysis

In this report there is a quote from Crest Nicholson – “Our industry needs increasing data analysis, particularly in a marketplace where consumers are becoming ever more discerning in their buying decisions. For us, having granular insight into buying drivers is a powerful tool to support product design and marketing strategies”

Much can be learned from after sales events and customer care teams but good systems that record, collate and analyse such information are needed. The ability to understand trends in defects, including their source and severity, can help design teams identify construction issues and ensure they are addressed. Good data can help identify poor performing subcontractors and enable recoveries, retraining or better recruitment processes to ensure that repetitive issues are removed from the construction phase.

Customer satisfaction and feedback data can help marketing departments identify what is important to every customer segment they are dealing with. Not only does this create strong and targeted marketing messages but it should also feed into the operations to ensure that expectations are met.

NHCC

Luckily there is an organisation dedicated to supporting customer care teams in the house building industry with all of these needs. NHCC has the software, project managers, skilled trades people and data collating systems that house builders, and their customers, need.

This report from Savills and the NHBC Foundation, coupled with the UK Government consultation on consumer redress in the housing industry, highlight how important it is for house builders to improve customer care. NHCC can provide that solution, so please get in touch.

If you would like to know more about NHCC please get in touch with James Bush or Alex Kilpatrick.