3 Reasons for New Homes Developers to open your doors to CX Evaluation in 2024

 

As a New Homes Developer, you will likely be already taking some steps to monitor your customer experience in one way or another. It’s probably time to ramp that up. Here are the top three reasons why you should enhance your current measures, or look at introducing some if you don’t yet have any in place…

1. Competition in a Challenging Market

A black and white photo of a chessboard, taken from the side. The board is empty except for a black King, which is tilted as a white Queen, held by a hand that is just visible at the top of the picture,, takes it.

As the Federation of Master Builders reported last year, the buyer demand for new build homes hit its lowest level since 2015, with mortgage availability being the second largest barrier for buyers.

Things should be looking up slightly in 2024, though, as while mortgage rates are still at a much higher level than they have been in recent years, some mortgage providers such as Co-Op Bank have been reducing their rates.

Additionally, late last year the Mortgage Advice Bureau reported that they had seen a 3.9% decrease in house prices in the UK new build industry, which they foresaw as having the potential to increase demand from buyers in 2024. Mobeen Akram, New Homes Director at the MAB, noted that the stability of the UK housing market “indicates that it will continue to stand its ground as the year draws to a close.”

So while there are signs of things being somewhat easier in 2024, competition between developers will still be keen, and the need to stand out from the crowd in every aspect, from property quality to customer care, has never been higher.

Developers large and small should be asking themselves:

  • “How personalised is the customer experience that our salespeople are providing?”
  • “Do potential buyers come away excited and inspired?”
  • “We have a great product, but are our salespeople bringing to life every aspect of that, so that potential buyers won’t even bother enquiring with our competition?”

Alongside these three questions, there is the rapidly changing face of consumer behaviour to take into consideration…

2. Evolving Customer Behaviour

Seven people of varying genders and races, in their early twenties, sitting on a wooden bench in front of a pink wall. They are all facing the camera and smiling. They are all casually and brightly dressed. Two are holding laptops, one is holding a tablet, and one is holding a phone.

Currently, many of our Customerwise New Homes Developer clients are telling us that more and more potential new build buyers are enquiring in-person at developments, as opposed to booking appointments. It’s crucial to actively monitor these kinds of trends, so that you can ensure that you have a set of processes in place for new enquiries that, in this case, still caters to potential buyers taking the more traditional enquiry route, while ensuring that those off-the-cuff enquirers at your developments also receive a solid, well-planned and engaging customer experience.

The changing demographic of house buyers also provides a backdrop that developers will ignore at their peril. More of Gen Z is now ageing into the house-buying stage of their lives (the oldest Gen Z are now 27 at the time of writing). So what do Gen Z want?

They want to see Corporate Responsibility – Research by McKinsey and Company has found that Gen Z “look beyond tangible products and want to figure out the modus operandi of the companies that they are buying from”.

McKinsey Partner Bo Finneman notes that Gen Z want to understand what makes a company tick – “What’s its mission? What’s its purpose? And what is it actually trying to build for us as a society?” Emma Spagnuolo, at the time an associate partner with McKinsey, also noted the need for genuine authenticity in what brands were communicating: “[I]f you have anything that’s not authentic within your brand story, it’s going to be exposed immediately.”

They want personal recommendations, reviews and influencers, rather than advertising and traditional property portals – Research by Oracle Group in 2023 found that only 28% of 18 to 24 year olds consider property portals, such as Zoopla and Right Move, to be the information source they most trust when looking for a home. Comparing this to the 44% of 25 to 24 year olds, and 43% of 35-44 year olds, this is a large shift.

They want digital contact options and lightning-fast responses – Gen Z, like Millennials, are at home on digital channels, and want contact options such as live chat and social media messaging. And they don’t want to wait the traditional 1-2 business days for a response – Salesforce research showed that 25% of the Millennial generation expect a response within ten minutes when reaching out via social media.

They want immersive buying experiences – While the exceptional circumstances of 2020 saw some people buying houses remotely and without viewing, this seems unlikely to become a trend any time soon. Not only does it carry obvious risks, both in terms of expectations and legalities, but the preferences of even the digital natives of Gen Z don’t support it – as a survey by A T Kearney showed, they see in-person purchase experiences as a way to disconnect from digital life.  What they want in those in-person experiences, though, is tangibility. Ciara Larking of Crowd DNA reported to Vogue Business that they are “craving tactile and immersive experiences”.

They want functionality and the ability to personalise their homes – Gen Z are a post-9/11 risk averse generation and need to actively be given confidence in quality and their protections, such as warranties. At the same time, though, they shy away from ‘cookie-cutter’ homes – this can be a challenge in the New Build environment.

These elements raise key questions about the tools and processes you have in place for your sales experiences.

  • Are your salespeople taking active steps to paint a picture of the sustainability and ethical stance of your company?
  • Do you have processes in place to measure your Net Promoter Score?
  • Do you have a range of appropriate digital contact channels in place, and ambitious targets for response times?
  • Are your salespeople and digital channels using a range of immersive and tangible tools with which potential buyers can interact? Personalisation and visualiser apps? Samples such as floors, cabinets, and lighting that potential buyers are actively encouraged to view and touch? A sales process that seamlessly, consistently and actively facilitates the potential buyer seeing the plot as ‘their home’, rather than ‘a house’?

With all of that in mind, there’s also the compliance side of things to consider, which has seen changes in recent years…

3. NHQC and Vulnerability

The New Homes Quality Borad Loco, which is white on a dark blue background, with the name forming the body of a house, and inverted white lines above it forming the roof. To the right, New Homes Quality is written in deep orange, while Code of Practice is written in white.

As you’ll know as a new build developer, the New Homes Quality Code is the new code of practice from the New Homes Quality Board, that was published in 2021 to replace the Consumer Code for Homebuilders, with the aim of driving up the quality of new build homes and strengthening protections for buyers.

If you have already registered for the NHQC with the NHQB, it’s crucial that you monitor your salespeople’s compliance with it, as a failure to meet the required standards may see you referred to the NHQB Discipline and Sanctions Committee, with possible sanctions ultimately including fines and removal from the Register of Developers.

If you haven’t already registered, you’ll be competing with those who have. Whether you want to refine your processes so that you’re ready to register, or ensure that you are effectively competing on the elements that it covers, oversight of your team’s performance in this respect will be equally as important for you.

Similarly to the New Consumer Duty, one of the key elements that the NHQC addresses is customer vulnerability. Principle 8 outlines that developers must ‘take steps to identify and provide appropriate support to vulnerable customers’. This covers a broad range of customers, from those with English as a second language, to those who are financially vulnerable, to those who have disabilities, amongst other things. This means that it’s key to have active processes in place for your salespeople to identify these vulnerabilities in their potential buyers, and signpost and explain the relevant support that you as a developer can provide. This can be a genuine challenge, and there’s a need to train and coach salespeople to be able to look out for indicators of the vulnerabilities, ask questions in a compassionate way, and identify and explain the appropriate support. Once that is in place, monitoring how well and fully this is being done is essential, to ensure that not only are you as a developer compliant with the Code, but that those enquiring with you are fully supported to safely and successfully go on to purchase from you.

That sounds like a lot to keep on top of, right? So what can you do?

Here are the keys to your next steps…

A red and white minature house, witha grey roof, sitting on a wooden table. It has four windows at the front, and a door and two windows to the side. A silver keyring in the shape of a house, which is half the width of the miniature house itself, lies on the table to the front left of the house. On the keyring is a brass Yale-type key, of the sort you would use to unlock a front door.

Have clear and appropriate processes in place for all three of the areas above. This is obviously the starting place, but be ready to evolve them responsively as the market, demographics, customer behaviours and industry guidelines change!

Monitor process delivery. We understand this can be a difficult one to do yourself, as even the smallest developer can’t listen to enough sales conversations to get a clear insight. Mystery Shopping has been a key process in the New Homes Developer space for many years, and we can see that that’s never been more evident than now, with more and more clients coming on board with us at Customerwise, some of whom have never used Mystery Shopping before. They’re citing changes in customer behaviour, keen competition, and a need to pinpoint where in the process their sales are being hampered. Some are finding that their previous providers just can’t deliver the quality and depth of insights that they need, so need to look to a more innovative and forward-thinking provider and programme.

Monitor Customer Satisfaction. Obvious, right? The crucial things are, firstly, whether the channels being provided for this are appropriate and inviting for the individual customers, and secondly, whether the resultant feedback is both displayed and analysed in a useful manner – Are reviews on appropriate platforms to appeal to younger demographics? Are analytics available to all relevant stakeholders in your business? Is data broken down in such a way that it can be meaningfully analysed by geographic area, buyer demographic, and key competitors? Were the buyers left with a great reason to actively recommend you to family and friends? Many clients use a combination of surveys accessible on-site via QR code, surveys accessed via a link after sales visits and purchases, and customer satisfaction telephone calls, to ask questions for key indicators of satisfaction with the process.

Solicit staff feedback. This can sometimes be forgotten in the push for sales success, or limited to one-off conversations that go no further than a line manager. You can have sales processes in place with all the best motivations in the world, but if there are elements of the process that are introducing pain points for those ‘on the ground’ in your developments, then the challenge of market success meets a huge roadblock. Regular employee surveys not only have benefits from an HR and retention perspective, enabling you to address employee satisfaction, but are invaluable in identifying these types of hurdles that stand between you and a fluid, optimal sales process across your estate.

There are many ways to carry out each of these things. The simplest approach, we find, is to have all of this feedback in one place. If you might be looking for a provider who could do that for you, read on!

At Customerwise, a big part of what we do is evaluate Customer Experience for New Home Developers. We know that every one of you is different, with different processes, nuances, focuses, and places in the market, so we never use a one-size-fits-all approach. What’s more, we can carry out your mystery shopping, customer feedback and staff feedback programmes, and present the results live on a bespoke reporting dashboard that’s tailored to present the insights that are important to you as an individual developer.

This makes it easy to see at a glance how the process, customer and staff feedback weigh up against each other, and where in each one the points for improvement are. We’re always happy to have a chat about the possibilities at any time, so do get in touch or book in a chat if you’d like to see how we can support you.

Regardless of how you go about meeting these challenges, we wish you all Sales Success in 2024!

 

 

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If you’d like to find out more about the services we offer for New Homes Developers, you can schedule in a call with us here. We’ve helped clients like you in improving their sales processes and customer experience, and we’d love to do the same for you.

Tamsin Palmer

Tamsin Palmer

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