Buying a home is somewhat of a herculean achievement for anyone these days, and for those who have managed to battle through the weeds of the home buying process, the wait to their first day in the home may be a long and equally strenuous journey. It is no secret the home building process has become extremely difficult, and while leads are continuing to pile up, a multitude of delays, cost increases, labor shortages and a general uncertainty about the entire housing market is creating problems for home buyers and builders alike.
Currently, the average time to complete a new home build is anywhere from 12 to 18 months, almost double what it was before COVID. In some areas, delays are up to two years. The prolonged delays have created a negative customer experience for many buyers as they find themselves in the dark on updates and progress once they have signed their contract.
The satisfaction of customers is at its highest up until they sign a contract, but during the building and move-in process the sales team has little interaction with the customer. Reputation often becomes the single biggest differentiator between a builder and the competition, and this reputation management can become burdensome when customers are unhappy while your team is understaffed to provide regular updates to every buyer throughout construction. If a home builder can provide a positive experience from contract signing to move-in date, and not just up to the sale, it can go a long way toward ensuring better reviews and surveys and the personal referrals that will follow.
To monitor reputation, a builder also needs to be able to collect data. With a chatbot, every conversation between builder and buyer can be logged directly into their CRM and/or ERP, allowing for visibility into trends, weak points, and strengths throughout the entire buyer journey. Imagine the benefit to reputation management when a builder could identify negative customer experiences and remediate them directly before the customer becomes frustrated and airs their grievances publicly.
While leads are plentiful and demand is high, a builder’s priorities shift from lead generation to customer experience. Eventually, this will reverse as home sales slow. Thankfully, a chatbot can act as a single solution not only for lead generation and sales follow-up but also for customer satisfaction and reputation management. To continue generating sales, builders need delighted customers. When times are good, reputation can suffer due to lack of time and resources to maintain proper communication with buyers. Thanks to automated chatbots, builders can turn a long and stressful process into a positive experience for every buyer, while also making buyer engagement easier and more sustainable for your team.
Sales are being flooded with new leads and new customers every day, so manually following-up on those who are already under contract becomes unsustainable. To ease the burden of these manual outreach activities, many homebuilders are turning to technology; specifically artificial intelligence (AI) powered, “smart” chatbots with engagement over SMS text message.
Not only can a chatbot help in qualifying leads for the sales team, but a chatbot can help to improve the experience of the home buyer at every stage in the buying process, through move-in and beyond. A chatbot can help manage expectations with proactive SMS communication, get ahead of problems, open new lines of communication, and make it easy for the team to remediate. Along with this, it can open a dialogue that can be fully automated where appropriate, saving your human team valuable time while engaging with buyers more robustly than ever. With customers preferring to communicate via text message compared to speaking on the phone 75% of the time, it makes sense to empower these customers to communicate on their terms with an automated chatbot.
Throughout the lengthy construction process, which for a buyer can seem like an eternity, a chatbot can reach out via SMS text automatically at important milestones to keep buyers informed. Text messages are opened within two minutes 98% of the time, and builders are seeing a 70-80% response rate, making SMS the perfect communication channel for buyers going through the construction phase. There will always be small hiccups along the way, but the ability for a builder to keep the buyer informed quickly and automatically will help to build trust between buyer and builder. Not only can the chatbot act as a virtual assistant for the builder’s human team, automatically routing conversations to the appropriate contact, but in a vast majority of cases, the chatbot will be able to fully handle the conversation without the need of a staff member, freeing up their time to focus on higher-value activities.