Improving the Homebuying Journey
Buying a home will likely be the biggest purchase you make in your life. Although this emotional purchase process should be full of excitement, it is often full of frustration. Currently, about 55% of homebuyers who purchased a home within the past five years, hit snags in the homebuying process-- that just isn’t right! As a technology company within the homebuilding industry, OpenHouse.ai is passionate about lowering that statistic and creating more home buying success stories!
We believe it’s time for home builders to take a more customer-centric approach and curate a positive customer experience for each unique buyer. To clarify, the customer experience encompasses a series of interactions with your brand and the services you provide throughout the entire purchase process and customer life cycle. As we are well into the “age of the customer,” it is the homebuyer, not the home builder that drives business decisions. Therefore, a home builder must be present everywhere along the buying journey and create a positive customer experience at each touchpoint. In this blog, we discuss exactly why home builders should focus on the customer experience and how to improve the buying journey. Let’s get into it!
WHY FOCUS ON THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE
First things first, a distinction between customer service and customer experience is necessary to understand why both are necessary-- but for different reasons. Customer service is the assistance and advice provided to a customer, while customer experience refers to the broader customer journey across the organization and includes every interaction between customer and business. Due to the homebuilding industry having so many moving parts with the threat of many things going wrong, relying on customer service alone might be a short-sighted solution. Now is the time to take a more proactive approach and leverage every interaction between builder and buyer to improve the homebuying journey. So why now?
As we mentioned above, it is the “age of the customer”, and homebuyers have access to mountains of information. Open access to information via the internet and social media has put the power into the hands of the buyer. Decisions are being made before buyers even engage with a salesperson! Home builders need to optimize each touchpoint of the buying journey- which includes being present in the digital space. As online shopping is growing in popularity, customers’ expectations are rising. Customers know what a great buying journey can look like, and they expect this from builders as well. So, these rising customer expectations provide the opportunity for home builders to optimize the online shopping experience, ultimately improving the homebuying journey!
Also, homebuilders must focus on the customer experience in order to remain competitive. By investing the time, energy and resources into improving the homebuying journey, your organization will stand out from the rest. Although many business owners remain skeptical about investing in this type of initiative, those that do will build a strong foundation of loyal customers and will likely evolve into brand advocates. For home builders in particular, transforming the mindset of the importance of curating a superior customer experience may be a monumental undertaking. So, if your brand is proactive and improves the customer experience, you will have a serious edge over your more conservative competitors.
Now that we’ve established the business value of creating a positive experience, what does that really look like for home builders? Here are a few tips on improving the homebuyer journey.
TRANSPARENCY AND OPEN COMMUNICATION
It is critical to begin with education. Your homebuyer should feel secure in every step of the process and that comes with explaining the considerations that will help them choose the right homesite for their family, and which options to select at the design center. Help them understand the mortgage process-- as millennials are now the largest segment of homebuyers, it is likely they are also first time buyers and need extra clarity and communication. The more they understand about the process, the less they’ll worry, and the more their home buying journey will improve.
Homebuilding is essentially countless different companies involved in a single home, where things sometimes don’t go as planned or are out of your control. Options get missed, schedules conflict, rainstorms delay construction, and the list goes on. The best way to improve your customer experience is to have honesty and transparency with each buyer. This includes “cause-and-effect” messages in your formal communications to prepare them for anything that could go wrong. It is up to the home builder to assure each customer that if a window gets broken during construction or a delay occurs, you are ready with the solution.
CONSISTENT MESSAGING WITH CUSTOMERS
What good is transparent communication when the conversations are too few and far between? Homebuilders must be consistent with their communication with customers in order to reduce stress and create a positive customer experience. A common complaint from buyers is “I never know what’s going on” let that be with construction progress, correcting defects or scheduling a service; ambiguity drives buyers crazy. So, keeping customers informed is key!
Your team should be providing weekly updates to customers, via email, text messages or a good old-fashioned phone call from your salesperson. No matter the method, keeping up consistent messaging will improve every touchpoint along the homebuying journey. Also, providing plans for the week coming up, as well as summaries of the prior week will help them feel more a part of this journey. Transparent, consistent messaging will go a long way.
Now that we’ve established the importance of the customer experience and a few tips on how to improve the homebuying journey, you may be thinking this initiative requires a great deal of resources and is ultimately, very time consuming. But as we continue to propel into the digital age, technological solutions are making it possible for home builders to improve the home buying journey in a scalable way.
USING AI TO IMPROVE THE JOURNEY
AI and machine learning are making a transformational impact on the home buying journey; from automating processes, to gaining insights and engaging with customers. When investigating how AI can help your organization, it is best to view it through the lens of business capabilities rather than technologies. And a common issue many builders face is efficiency. Cognitive automation is an advanced business process automation that mimics human input and information consumption. This technology is helping to scan legal and contractual documents to extract provisions and accelerate the processing of paperwork; and in this industry there is no shortage of paperwork!
Another common problem many home builders face is the lack of presence of an online salesperson to greet website visitors and ask questions. Cognitive engagement projects “talk” to customers using natural language processing chatbots and intelligent agents. The homebuying journey is exponentially improved as each potential homebuyer can be more accurately nurtured during their online experience.
Arguably the most valuable component of AI driven technology is the cognitive insights, which entails the use of algorithms to look for patterns and gain insights on massive amounts of data. At OpenHouse.ai, we employ similar algorithms to predict what home a homebuyer is most likely interested in based on their unique needs, wants and motivations. This technology enables businesses to analyze hundreds of fields across millions of records to accurately predict customer behavior in real-time. OpenHouse.ai’s marketing platform works as an “add-on” to existing websites to provide a personalized experience for each unique visitor, thus improving the homebuying journey before customers even step foot in a show home.
As our world continues to catapult into the digital age, the customer experience is increasingly important. Homebuyers are equipped with more tools and resources to conduct their own research and ultimately begin the decision-making process before even speaking with a sales associate. This presents itself as a huge opportunity for home builders to improve the homebuying journey through transparency and open communication. Although optimizing the customer experience is a significant undertaking, utilizing revolutionary AI technology is transforming the way home builders operate. By being open to leveraging available technology, home builders are able to put the customer first, every step of the way.
- The OpenHouse.ai Team