Closing day for Scott and Jill has finally arrived. They couldn't be more excited and the looks on their faces tell the whole story. For months they’ve been making arrangements for movers, transitioning the kids to new schools, and sending countless notifications to change their address. Their lists were endless, but the careful planning finally paid off. Closing came and went without a hitch. Keys were turned-over, and they were pleasantly surprised to receive an elegant basket of goodies from their builder. But with the next to-do list in hand, they crammed the basket into the back seat and headed straight to their new home to meet the movers.
If they had known what their builder spent on the welcome basket they may have been more appreciative and treated it with a little more care, but Scott and Jill had more pressing concerns and didn’t give it much thought.
Welcome gifts say more than “thank you”
Regardless of what form your Welcome Gift takes, it serves multiple purposes. Of course it’s a thoughtful gesture and a great way to say thank-you to a valued customer. (And we should always try to make the closing experience as great as possible.) But it should also be viewed as a strategic component of your overall customer experience plan. You have made an investment in your customer program, but are you making the investments at the right time?
The customer experience for home buyers is filled with emotional highs and lows.
The build cycle and overall impact on the customer’s life only exaggerates the peaks and valleys. While it's a challenge to manage those emotions, it helps that the home buyer's emotional roller coaster is predictable. When you know what to expect you can plan accordingly. In fact, every aspect of your customer journey plan should take into account the natural ebb-and-flow of your customers’ emotions. This is why it's so important to map your customer journey to know where the highs and lows are.
Buyer’s remorse is inevitable
Whether you’ve bought a house, a car, or a high definition television, it is natural for doubt to creep in after purchase. "Do I really need this? Did I make the right choice? Did the salesperson take advantage of me?" That discomfort tends to be more severe when the purchase requires more effort (financial resources, time spent researching, negotiating) and commitment (long-term dedication). In terms of effort and commitment, there’s little that compares to the new home buying and building process.
What do you do after they’ve signed the contract?
They’ve signed the contract and you’ve hustled them through the design studio and mortgage approval process. Excitement is high. After the frenetic pace, days, weeks, or even months go by before you start construction on their home. Seeds of remorse start to germinate in the void of activity. When left unattended it becomes more and more difficult to maintain trust and regain the customer’s initial enthusiasm and positive momentum.
Pre-construction meetings can bridge the gap and are an excellent step in the customer journey, but those tend to be more transitional in nature. Construction updates are also great, but what do you tell them when you haven't started digging yet? We would recommend you also consider an activity that hits more at the heart than the intellect. Maybe host a monthly party or cocktail hour for your new buyers at the model home. Educate them on all the activities the company is doing between contract signing and home start. Introduce them to your warranty program. Teach them something new about your product or neighborhood. Not only are you teaching them valuable information they need to know, but subtly addressing their emotional need to belong. Your buyers are making meaningful connections. They’re getting to know their future neighbors. And if you invite a few current residents it adds to the sense of community and rekindles their excitement for why they bought from you in the first place. We can never fully prevent the down-side of the emotional roller-coaster but with proactive planning we can minimize its impact.
Rethinking the closing gift
As we saw with Scott and Jill, closing is one of the high-points of the customer journey; packed with anticipation, excitement and a flurry of activities. Amidst all of that intrinsic energy there is a likelihood your closing gift might be under-appreciated at best, or totally forgotten at worst. Pizza coupons, drinks, and other move-in necessities will be well-received and seen as timely, but anything more may serve you better a few weeks after closing once the dust has settled.
As the moving boxes clear, it’s impossible for customers to sustain their emotional high. They begin to notice issues they didn’t see at walk-through, the kitchen faucet develops a leak, or they are reminded daily about their unresolved punch-list items. That predictable lull could be a better time to deliver a gift basket of wine, cheese, crackers, etc. – to give the boost of positivity your customer needs, along with messages of assurance that you’re with them for the long haul.
Seeing your customer experience from a fresh perspective
My point is not that closing gifts are bad. Even if the timing isn't perfect, it's still better than nothing. But as builders, we should always be looking for ways to get the most impact out of our investments, and investing in the customer experience can be difficult to measure. So it's critical to look at your customer experience holistically to understand how to get the most bang for your buck with a closing gift, or any other act of celebration or appreciation.
If you haven't mapped your customer journey, that's the best place to start learning where the emotional highs and lows are for your customers. Whether you’re starting from scratch to create the best possible customer experience or wanting to analyze the effectiveness of your current program, it is almost impossible as an internal exercise. Institutional bias and seeing things through the lens of a homebuilder creates blind spots that can hinder the journey mapping process. As an objective third party that has worked with hundreds of builders, the Bokka Group can bring your team together to help you see the customer journey from the home buyer’s perspective across all touch points.
We can help you understand the experience you’re currently delivering, inspire you to new possibilities, and clearly demonstrate a path to improvement for buyers like Scott and Jill.