When phones stopped ringing at construction firms across the country, Cullum Homes saw an opportunity to retool and refocus on its systems and processes. A full-scale implementation of Co-Construct selections and communications software has improved staff efficiency and client satisfaction. The reception from homeowners has been so positive, the custom home builder now presents this feature to prospective clients as a key factor that differentiates Cullum Homes from its competitors.
“We looked at what we could do to make the next business cycle more fun, profitable and more systematic,” says Rod Cullum, president and owner of the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based firm. “One target was how we handled product customization and all the decisions being made that affect a home’s design. For any custom or semi-custom home there are literally hundreds of decisions being made, and sometimes a customer can’t remember what they decided.”
Cullum’s goal was simple: Streamline processes by keeping all 26 team members on the same page in real time. The challenge was to capture the many facets of home building communications, including spec sheets, selections, change orders, diagrams, photos, question and answer dialogue, costs and schedule progress in one place for all to see, access and utilize. Key team members used the construction of a model home as the first job. Acting as its own client, the Cullum team was able to fully comprehend all aspects of what this system could do. This type of organized presentation has provided measurable, tangible results for the builder.
“We have been through a lot of systems and software, and what we liked about Co-Construct is the way it handles selections, change orders, client requests and scheduling. Now we’re on our 10th or 12th customer going through the process, and are always refining it,” he says.
With clients online at all hours of the day, it is important to provide them instant access to project information, says Kim Cullum, co-owner. “The longer clients have to wait, the more frustrated they get, so we have to cut down the time it takes to respond. Now, they don’t have to work around what time it is in Arizona. They can see what has been posted and ask questions, and when they come back later someone will have answered them. The communication back and forth is contained in a module unique to a job, so nothing gets lost in the shuffle. Whatever the question, it is the definitive source for the final answer,” she says.
Another valuable benefit is that Rod Cullum has been removed as a middle man. “Our new process has freed me up to do more business development, to find the next deal, to be concerned about client relationships and not what their paint color is. I know that process is being managed properly, so I can focus on the big picture,” he says.
The new communications system works so well, Cullum Homes promotes it as a differentiator. “In our first meeting with a prospect, we show them the process and urge them to ask our competition how they will be managing their communication,” Cullum explains. “People expect excellence, quality, and they expect things to be done on time. Unless there’s a system to ensure that, to communicate timing and selections, it can’t happen. We have cut our cycle time down and can hold everyone accountable and stay ahead of selections, and as a result clients have had spectacular experiences.”