June 2024

Customer Experience is Everything

Discover how prioritizing customer experience can set your homebuilding business apart in 2024 to drive long-term success and create happy customers.

Alex Hunter
Alex Hunter
VP, Marketing | Raleigh, NC

Customer experience is the lifeblood of any successful business. But for home builders, it’s even more important since the products they’re selling are almost always the single biggest purchase of their customer’s life.

In my decade-long career at Apple, I worked in roles from the retail store to product marketing for Apple Watch. Over this time with one of the world’s most admired brands, I solidified my belief that the customer experience (CX) is everything.

The residential home-building industry is incredibly competitive, and delivering an exceptional customer experience can set home builders apart from the pack. Understanding what CX actually is and where to start is the first step in elevating builders' customer experience and winning in today’s market.

The Impact of Customer Experience

What is Customer Experience?

Customer experience covers every interaction with your brand, from the first encounter to well after a purchase. Sure, it’s about customer service. But it’s also about the other aspects of your interactions that lead to a smooth, enjoyable journey that leaves a lasting positive impact. 

This includes everything from initial awareness and the sales process to the actual product or service experience and post-purchase support. In the home building industry, CX starts when a prospective buyer checks out your website and continues through buying, living in, and maintaining their new home.

Insights from Apple: Why CX was a Priority

When I worked at Apple, the customer experience was never an afterthought — it was a core part of our strategy. From the moment you stepped into an Apple retail store to the product you held in your hand, as we designed and built new products for billions of consumers, every detail was meticulously crafted to give the consumer a great experience.

Here are some ways builders can learn from Apple and elevate their customer experience:

A Seamless Ecosystem

Much of our success came from the seamless integration of hardware, software, and services. This made sure that every product worked flawlessly within the Apple ecosystem to provide a consistent and positive user experience. 

For home builders, applying a connected approach can ensure that every aspect of the customer journey, from initial contact to the construction process to after closing, is cohesive and high-quality. Leveraging modern technology like Higharc can ensure that all the pieces of the customer journey are connected to deliver that cohesive experience.

Emotion Drives Decision Making

During my time in Apple Retail, I saw the importance of consistent, positive interactions. And for no other reason than the fact that people simply buy on emotion. 

So whether a customer was visiting a store, calling support, or making an online purchase, the experience was designed to be what we called “surprise and delight” at every point in the journey. 

Homes, by their nature, are an emotional product. That’s where homebuilders can lean into the emotional side of the transaction and ensure their teams deliver exceptional service at every touchpoint. 

The Ripple Effect of Excellent Customer Experience

A great customer experience will of course generate more sales. But it’ll go deeper than more revenue — you’ll notice its impacts across your business. As we know, home buying and building is a local business. Happy customers are more likely to recommend your business to friends, co-workers, and family, leading to organic growth through word-of-mouth. They are also more likely to return for future purchases, increasing customer lifetime value.

These happy customers will turn into your biggest fans, spreading the word about their great experiences with your brand to everyone they know, both in person and on social media. This kind of word-of-mouth marketing is priceless for home builders, as it brings in more customers without the need for expensive advertising. 

On the other hand, a negative customer experience can have far-reaching impacts.

95% of customers share bad experiences with others. The next time an unhappy customer walks out the day, it’s not just one person, but could turn into dozens of people that may not even consider doing business with you. (Source: Zendesk)

By prioritizing the customer experience, you'll see big rewards in the long run, from increased customer loyalty and more repeat business to strong customer advocacy. For home builders, nurturing those long-term connections with your clients can be the difference-maker in your business.

4 Practical Steps to Elevate Your Customer Experience

If you’re thinking all this sounds great, but where do I start? The good news is that improving customer experience doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are some simple, relevant steps for homebuilders to enhance their CX.

Map Out a Basic Customer Journey

Understanding your customer’s journey is the first step to improving their experience. This exercise will help you visualize the process a customer goes through from initial contact to post-purchase. 

Tools like Miro and FigJam make it easy for your team to create and collaborate on customer journey maps. These platforms allow you to visually plot each step of the customer journey, identify pain points, and brainstorm solutions.

Listen to Customer Feedback

Let’s face it: Customers often don’t know what they want. The art of listening to customer feedback is essential for improving their experience, but you have to do it effectively. To do this, try implementing regular surveys and feedback loops to gather those insights from your customers.

Tips for Collecting Feedback:

  • Use open-ended questions vs. Yes or No
  • In qualitative interviews, leverage The 5 Whys framework for deeper insights
  • Encourage honest feedback by making surveys quick and easy to complete
  • Follow up on the feedback by acknowledging the issue and communicating how it was addressed via improvements.

Train Employees to Deliver Exceptional Service

Your team members truly embody the spirit of your brand and have the power to shape how customers perceive your company — no matter how amazing your products or services are. Providing your employees with top-notch training can truly elevate the overall customer experience. 

Back in the early days of Apple Retail, we would come together for intense weekend sessions before a store opening. These immersive experiences made sure that we were experts on every product, understood the customer journey inside out and were well-equipped to handle any questions or concerns with a mindset that always went above and beyond.

For home builders, this type of knowledge-sharing and training can prepare your team to deliver the best customer experience possible.

Training Tips:

  • Empathy Training: Teach employees to understand and respond to customers' emotions and needs.
  • Product Knowledge: Ensure all employees have a deep understanding of your homes and services.
  • Consistent Messaging: Train your team to communicate consistently and positively across all touchpoints.

Leverage Tech To Provide A Personalized Journey for Buyers

There’s arguably nothing more personal than your home. When a buyer begins the process of picking out their new home, they expect a personalized experience that allows them to visualize their home and make specific choices so it can meet their preferences and needs.

Technology is one of the fastest ways to help you personalize the process and make the journey more enjoyable and memorable for your customers.

Personalization Strategies:

  • Understanding Preferences: Use initial consultations and surveys to gather detailed information about each buyer’s preferences, lifestyle, and requirements.
  • Customized Communication: Send personalized updates and progress reports via email or a customer portal, addressing the specific concerns and interests of each buyer.
  • Interactive Tools: Utilize interactive 3D tools and platforms like Higharc Showroom to allow buyers to visualize and personalize their future home.

Measuring Success: How Can You Know If Your Customer Experience is Working?

In the words of famous consultant Zig Ziglar, “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” Nothing could be more true when it comes to knowing if your CX strategy is effective. Measuring success doesn’t have to be difficult, but it requires an intentional effort. 

Our “North Star” KPI at Apple was NPS or Net Promoter Score, followed by a product-level CSAT survey to understand how certain features were liked or not liked. 

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) Homebuilders Should Use 

  • Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT): Measures overall customer satisfaction with your services.
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS): Gauges customer loyalty and likelihood to recommend your business.

How Should Builders Gather Feedback Effectively?

  1. Get a simple tool for NPS and CSAT surveys like Typeform or SurveyMonkey.
  2. Conduct surveys at various stages of the homebuying journey such as after design center meetings, post-purchase interactions, and during the handover of the completed home.
  3. Analyze NPS feedback to identify promoters, passives, and detractors. Use the feedback from these surveys to identify pain points and areas for improvement in your customer interactions and service delivery.

The bottom line

Customer experience is everything. 

By prioritizing a great customer experience, homebuilders can differentiate themselves in a competitive market, build stronger relationships with customers, and drive long-term success. 

If my years at Apple taught me anything, it’s that a relentless focus on CX pays off in countless ways. In 2024, it's time for homebuilders to embrace this philosophy and make customer experience their top priority.

Higharc can help you deliver the buyer experience your customers expect. Learn more about our tools for sales and marketing teams and how we can elevate your business with our connected cloud software for homebuilders.

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