Warranty or not, it’s important to address clients’ problems and concerns or risk being bad-mouthed up and down Main Street. But fear of bad publicity shouldn’t be the motivation for taking care of customers. It’s just good business to keep them happy, even after the home is complete, the warranty has expired and money is no longer exchanging hands.
Building the foundation for the post-sale client relationship begins the minute the client walks through the door. If the relationship is weak during design and construction stages, it certainly won’t hold up very well once the home is complete. Thus, the key to a good post-sale relationship is good pre-sale relations.
When speaking with four successful custom builders from across the country about the ways they build and maintain relationships with their clients, a few similarities emerged. All of them take care of the little squeaks and other imperfections discovered after living in the house for a few months. They all offer home warranties and take care of any problems a month or two before warranties expire.
Other efforts include sending newsletters, calling or sending cards on client birthdays, and providing wine, gift baskets or other goodies upon closing day. Beyond this, builders’ individual efforts may vary, but the common factor they share is going beyond the call of duty — sometimes way beyond — to make clients happy.
“If you were to poll our clients, they all would say: ‘These guys do the right thing, always,’” says Bobby Gross, who owns and operates Windstar Homes in Tampa, Fla., with co-owner David Lesser. “It’s easy to captain a ship when seas are smooth. But when clients feel they’re right about something, and we feel we’re right, the smart thing to do is bite down and manage it. Our clients will tell you that’s what we do.”
One remarkable example of the power of bending over backward to make clients happy revolves around Windstar’s painter. Windstar owns a painting business, and the painter’s wife was expecting a baby. “A client found out she was pregnant and told us, ‘We want to have a baby shower at our home, and provide all the catering.’ So, we all enjoyed an afternoon at this 18,000-sq.-ft. estate we built, and everything was on the client. That speaks volumes about our relationship. Things like that happen frequently because we do the right thing, and we do it consistently,” Gross says.
At Windstar, there are limitless ways to do the right thing. Some of the biggest impacts come from efforts Windstar makes during the construction process. “We had one client struggling over the decision to add lighting control or not. We showed them the cost for that change, and what the builder markup is. They were agonizing over it. We wanted them to enjoy their home, so we removed the markup so they could have it, which we’ll do on occasion,” Gross says.
A Windstar home will always be a Windstar home for the rest of time, Lesser explains. So when one of them is sold, Windstar gets the name of the new owners and sends a gift and letter. “We send out a gigantic flower and fruit arrangement with a letter that welcomes the new owners into the Windstar family. We will treat them like they contracted with us to build their home. The comments and phone calls from that have been fantastic. We believe that’s just doing the right thing,” Lesser says.
As surprising as stories like these might sound, they’re familiar to those at Windstar. “It’s not as though the relationship changes once the home is complete,” Gross says. “If we had not developed a solid relationship through the design/build cycle, there’s not a whole lot you can do to make the post-sale relationship better.”
Empeco Custom Builders