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Show Me Your Employees, and I’ll Show You Your Leaders

by Rudy Hill

My wife and I recently had a chance to visit the Austin area. For those who may not know, Austin is a great place, and one of the hottest, if not the hottest, housing markets in the country.  So, out of curiosity, we decided to go to several housing developments and take a look at the model homes. In addition to getting some interior decorating ideas, it gave us an opportunity to see what you can get in Austin.

We quickly learned that you don’t get as much in Austin as you did even two years ago. The average home price is about $450k, and the build time is about 12 months. More importantly, we learned that not all builders are equal. What I mean by this is that every builder has a different sense of customer service. I understand that demand is high, and supply is low, but is this a reason to treat customers as mindless, and perhaps desperate, buyers? I think not. 

We went through developments in several towns south, west, and north of Austin; San Marcos, Lago Vista, Georgetown, etc. Almost without failure, we also saw the same group of builders, catering to an above-average price point. We also saw a consistent pattern of customer service from each builder. However, rather than focus on the bad players, I would like to share my thoughts on the one builder that stood out.

First, as disclaimer, I don’t have a vested interest in Coventry Homes.  All I know is that they are a local builder, focused on building homes in Texas. I also don’t know the leadership team directly, but I have a strong sense of their values.  In the hottest of markets, where construction takes up to 12 months, and salespeople are limited to the number of sales per month, it would be so easy to dismiss customers; they’re a dime a dozen. However, consistently across five communities throughout the Austin area, with different price points, the folks at Coventry were consistently customer oriented. It’s as if their mentality was, “You are family, and you may not buy from us today, but we want to be your builder one day.” I could almost hear the voice of Coventry leadership cheerleading their employees to treat every customer like family.

Based on my informal case study, I would list Coventry’s values and practices as follows:

  1. Every customer is a family looking for a great home

  2. Treat every customer as family

  3. Follow up with an thank you to each customer for visiting

  4. Provide honest, upfront information

  5. Don’t act pretentious

  6. Always have a smile 

  7. Don’t bring your problems to work

Overall, it appears that this company has a focus on making the home buying experience joyful and customer oriented. My other guess is that the leadership probably treats its employees well. While other salespeople seemed cold and angry about working after Christmas, the folks at Coventry had a great attitude.

This post is definitely not meant to promote a particular builder or company. Instead, this is meant as a wakeup call to all companies that claim to care about customers. Employees are the biggest reflection of company values. So, whenever you have a bad customer-service experience, don’t put the blame solely on the salesperson. Much of the bad behavior is more than likely a manifestation of poor corporate values, and the existence of a toxic culture. Poorly paid, poorly acculturated, poorly led, and poorly treated employees make for a terrible business model. Let’s hope that 2020 will serve to highlight the need to acknowledge every person’s humanity, and release companies from the shackles of obligatory adherence to “Corporate Social Responsibility.” Let’s live our values, and not just parade them around as cheap marketing schemes. Remember, “charity starts at home.” Treat your employees well by wearing your values on your sleeve, and CSR will take care of itself.

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