A Brave New World
Customer reviews are now an important way for builders to differentiate.
Home builders are going online with a new way to distinguish their companies from the competition, that is by publishing their customer reviews on the Internet for the world to see. In fact, this approach is fast becoming the most significant change in builder marketing since the advent of social networking. Powered by Facebook, Twitter, and Google, 2012 will be the year that customer transparency goes viral in home building.
In the world of Facebook, great companies now are defined by how many “likes” are awarded by customers. For leading home builders the same principle applies for their customer reviews—garner as many positive customer comments as possible. How does your company stack up in this new measure of success? Do you publish your customer comments on a daily/weekly basis? How about posting actual customer comments from satisfaction surveys direct to Facebook and Twitter? What about posting all your customer feedback regardless of whether it’s good or bad directly to Google? This may sound crazy, but it is exactly what successful builders are doing, with dramatic increases in sales as a result.
Who are these adventurous home builders that dare to break the century old “code of silence” when it comes to what customers actually think about their products and services? Well, the names may surprise you, and it’s a strategy engaged in by companies big and small.
Meritage Homes and Facebook:Meritage Homes, a national, publicly traded home builder, publishes its customer comments directly to Facebook on a daily and weekly basis. These posts engender incredibly positive feedback from followers, but also occasionally draw customer service requests from homeowners, which the company openly allows and publicly responds to as needed. You can visit its Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/meritagehomes to observe how it goes live with customer reviews. Meritage now has over 15,000 likes in just an 18-month period. It leads in sales compared to other builders selling in the same communities throughout the U.S. with award-winning customer satisfaction, daring grassroots marketing, and ground-breaking, energy-efficient homes.
Veridian Homes and Google:Veridian Homes, a single-market builder based in Madison, Wis., leads the market by publishing all its customer satisfaction survey results directly to Google. Simply type “Veridian Homes Reviews” in Google, and you will see a listing displaying its results along with Google Stars that correspond to its level of performance. Veridian goes one step further by displaying actual customer survey scores by community within virtual home tours that are also displayed by Google for easy access by customers. The company has been a leading builder within Wisconsin since the 1950s and continues its success with award-winning customer satisfaction, stylish energy-efficient homes, and a renowned company culture.
Ideal Homes and Twitter:Ideal Homes, based in Norman, Okla., regularly posts its customer reviews to Twitter (through Facebook). Its strategy is to intermix the positive feedback it receives from customers with updates regarding new product releases, market updates, and general company news. Ideal is one of the first builders to embrace Twitter as an extension of its Facebook strategy on a regular basis. You can view its Twitter page @idealhomesok. Ideal is a market leader recognized nationally for its energy-efficient designs, innovative marketing, and award-winning customer satisfaction.
The world is evolving toward corporate transparency due to the astonishing success of social networking, which broadcasts the “voice of the customer” whether positive or negative. Truly, it’s a brave new world that industry leaders have embraced, with marketing that is customer-centric and genuine, and captivates today’s socially connected buyer.
Savvy social media users are taking to Twitter and Facebook and shunning long call centre waiting times to get ‘VIP’ treatment in sorting out their problems.
Big brands such as BT, Aviva, Virgin Media and ASOS all have Twitter accounts dedicated to sorting out customer complaints.
And cunning customers know that by tweeting complaining about a company, or even ranting on its Facebook page they will secure an almost immediate response from firm’s desperate to nip bad publicity in the bud.
Social media power: Consumers are turning to more powerful forms of complaint by airing their views on Twitter and Facebook.
Companies are concerned about damaging their ‘digital reputation’ and are keen to sort customers problems quickly.
And more and more of us are getting the message that naming and shaming is a quick route to success. Some 65 per cent of consumers now believe that social media is a better way to communicate with companies than through call centres, according to the study by public relations agency Fishburn Hedges and Echo Research.
Its survey of 2,000 people found that more than a third of consumers have already interacted with companies through social media.
And 40 per cent of those surveyed believed that social media has improved customer service.
Eva Keogan, head of innovation at Fishburn Hedges, said: ‘Many people are currently enjoying the VIP treatment from brands on social media. As millions more catch on to this great route into traditional customer service channels, the challenge for brands will be maintaining the same level of service.’
Online customers are also often privy to exclusive offers – while sometimes a tactic to get some to spend more – there are often real discounts and opportunities to save money.
This is Money explored customers fighting back online in November 2009 when we highlighted how some consumers had been uploading videos to YouTube or writing blogs voicing their annoyance at the service from a particular brands.
Of course, we have also been no stranger to our readers using This is Money to fight back and know that not only do companies respond swiftly when we take on someone’s case, but also regularly monitor our reader comments and forums to spot people’s problems.