Some people think it’s a weakness to admit that they’re not perfect, but while the pursuit of homebuilding perfection is a passion (obsession?) of mine, I feel it takes a bigger person to admit they don’t get everything right all the time. There are a myriad of moving parts in homebuilding; sooner or later, all builders have to come to grips with this reality. Good builders put systems in place to keep things from going wrong. Better builders put new systems in place so the same things won’t go wrong again. The Best builders do both, but above all they don’t shy away from responsibility, and always turn miscues into opportunities to prove their worth to their customers.
When a misunderstanding occurs with their clients, the best builders keep their cool and try to find a mutually agreeable solution. In an age where it has become normal for most builders to hide behind their contractual protections because they may have been burned by a past customer or two, it’s usually a bad idea to exercise them. For our customers going through the homebuilding process, all it takes is one such experience for them to become disgusted and chalk us up as “another one of those builders” who are out to get them. Let’s face it; there seem to be more “bad contractor” stories out there than good ones, so our customers come to us primed for such a reaction. The good news is that because there are so many bad builders out there, and even more decent ones who want to hide behind contracts when the going gets tough, it’s relatively simple to “wow” our clients. I’m not advocating just giving in every time to everything regardless of cost, but sometimes all it takes to make a customer happy is our willingness to admit responsibility (full or partial), and re-confirming our commitment to making things right. Approaching every tense situation with a customer with “what could I have done to keep this from happening?” is the key to finding a positive outcome. The “what does the contract say?” approach will only end in a loss of confidence from our customers.
Sure, it often costs money not to hide behind a contract or other document, but what is the cost of not getting referral business from that customer? Hopefully, you approach every customer with the hope of turning them into an evangelist for your company (thank you, Guy Kawasaki), but if you don’t, you should be able to appreciate the cost of generating future business. If you know your cost to acquire, it’s a good start, but keep in mind that one bad testimonial outweighs dozens of good ones, and the more negative experiences you create with customers, the higher your cost to acquire future business will be.
For so many reasons, the Best builders out there are characterized primarily by their positive approach to the builder-customer relationship. While many of us would like to be perfect, we’re not, and it’s really how we handle the things that go wrong that sets us apart.