Journey mapping for home builders is a hot topic these days. In the past two years I've heard more home builders talking about customer experience and the customer journey than ever before. At Bokka, we were the first company to offer journey mapping as a service for home builders, and now it's become one of our most requested services.
If you're not sure what the hype is about, I'll break it down by answering the most common questions home builders ask us:
- What is journey mapping?
- What's the benefit?
- What types of builders do it?
- What do I do with the results?
- What can I expect as outcomes?
1. What is customer journey mapping for home builders?
Journey mapping is the process of aligning your processes with the customer's thoughts and emotions. There are two parts to that: first is documenting interactions your customers have with you during the home buying/building process. Second is documenting how those interactions make the customer feel along the way. As process-oriented organizations, builders are good at the first part: mapping the interactions (or touchpoints). It's the second part, understanding how the process makes the customer feel, that's a challenge.
As the adage goes: your buyers won't remember the things you said or did, they'll remember how you made them feel.
Think about why people write reviews and share them online. It's nearly always because of how a person or company made them feel. Most reviews, good and bad, are charged with emotion. And whether we like it or not, online reviews are the new referral, only on a larger scale to a broader audience. That's a scary thought.
So many things can go wrong beyond our control:
"The home price just went up."
"The completion date just got pushed back."
"A subcontractor peed in the bathtub (yes this happened)."
Building a new home in today's climate is not for the faint of heart. Even if you're building 100% spec, something is going to go wrong for every customer, and every customer has a megaphone called social media.
This is precisely why I define "customer experience" as the story your customers tell their friends. More about that here >>
2. What are the benefits of journey mapping?
The customer journey is like a roller coaster ride. And research shows customers are most likely to write reviews based on how you made them feel 1) at the end of the journey, and 2) at the highest peaks or lowest valleys. It's called the peak-end rule, and nearly every home builder review is influenced by it.
Mapping the customer journey allows you to take control of this emotional roller coaster, filling the pits, and building higher peaks, with more of them toward the end. It's important to keep in mind over 85% of customers who won't refer have issues at move-in: homes not delivered clean and complete, unresolved punch lists, surprises at the closing table, etc.
Another significant benefit of journey mapping is the cultural effect it has on those that participate. When you bring your teams together and ask them to empathize with the customer during the process, it creates a bond among those that participate, and sends the message "this company really cares." It will set you apart from the builders that only care about meeting sales quotas, instead of doing the right thing for the customer. This helps retain good talent and reduce turnover.
3. What types of builders are doing it?
I believe every builder should have an understanding of their customer journey. We've helped create journey maps for builders as small as 150 homes per year as well as national builders delivering 10,000 homes. And the ones that have the most to gain are those that are looking to scale operations and standardize the customer experience across departments, divisions, or acquisitions.
If you're a small builder delivering 20 homes per year, it's possible to keep your finger on the pulse of every customer that builds with you. If you're that involved, you may find the process of creating a journey map unnecessary.
On the other end of the spectrum, many big builders have already created journey maps and have been using them for years on their path to maturity.
It's the builders in between that benefit the most, as many don't fully understand what type of experience they're delivering. They often have tons of data about their customers but have trouble translating it into meaningful actions. (If you're neck-deep in customer data and not sure what to do with it - ask about our customer data assessment.)
4. What do I do with the results?
With the process complete, you should easily be able to identify programs and initiatives to improve your customer experience both for the short and long term.
Done properly, with the support of quantitative and qualitative customer data, you make a strong case for investing in future experience improvements. Many builders want to start improving their experience but have no idea where to start. The customer journey map is a tool to help you prioritize, starting with quick wins, and moving on to long-term initiatives.
If you start to feel overwhelmed, just think of it as a pyramid of customer's needs.
At the base is delivering the product - if the home is wrong, nothing else matters. In the middle, you're creating a smooth process - provide a clear and predictable roadmap for the customer (journey mapping is key to creating that roadmap). The top is where you make it fun and personal. Challenge your team to come up with ways to connect with customers in a fun and authentic way. This can be the most rewarding part. For many builders, it means getting out of your comfort zone. But you have to trust your team. They know the customer best.
For more on this pyramid approach check out:
> Important Metrics to Track in Your Customer Experience Program
> How Do You Measure the Customer Experience?
5. What are some journey mapping outcomes?
The long-term goal for many builders is customer reviews. But here are some other outcomes of journey mapping you can expect.
For the customer:
- They always know where they are in the process and what comes next.
- They see everyone in your organization as a unified team (because everyone knows exactly what they're putting the customer through).
- Regularly setting expectations and delivering on them builds trust. The message received by the customer is that you're organized. You talk to each other. And you care. The customer feels the genuine concern you have for them.
For the builder:
- The team has a set plan that everyone has bought into. It's a great accountability tool. Everyone knows what's expected from their role.
- It should foster remarkable teamwork. When customers see great teamwork in action they know they are working with a special company. The antithesis are interactions with folks like AT&T, Verizon, Comcast. You call with a problem and repeat your story over-and-over. Totally disjointed: these people aren't listening and really don't care.
- Embody the Abe Lincoln quote, "The best way to predict the future is to create it." Your journey map allows you to create a blueprint for the future experience you want to be known for.
Why now is the best time to focus on mapping the customer experience
Right now, with supply chain shortages, builders aren't needing to fill the funnel like before. So marketing and sales are having to shift from their original goals of lead generation and conversion. The new goal (likely temporary) is to focus on the things we have always wanted to do, but haven't been able to because of limited resources. One of those things is the customer experience. Focus on this now (while there's the time and resources to do it) so that the experience is better once we start opening the funnel again. The best first step is journey mapping.
Getting started with journey mapping
There are a lot of resources on the internet for journey mapping. But it's not easy to apply them to the home building industry because the home buying/building process is so different. Not many other products take a year to personalize and create (in the field no less). And the home is one of the most emotional purchases a person will make. It's certainly the most expensive.
Hopefully, this article has inspired you to take steps toward improving your customer journey. If so, let us know. You're the kind of builder we love to hear from. Whether you're the DIY-type looking for resources, or the type that prefers to work directly with the experts, give us a call. Our mission is to leave this industry a better place than we found it. And it starts with a conversation.