Help Your Homeowners (Part II)

smiling couple looking at blueprint at homeThe intent of a homeowners’ manual is to deliver useful and timely information to homeowners. It is an easy way to guide your clients to useful product information, common maintenance solutions, and homeowner education. Information may be delivered in a hard-copy printed version or in some digital/online format. Either way, the information should be organized and categorized for quick and easy access. It should also provide general green living tips, resources, and additional information.

The NGBS includes Homeowner Education/Maintenance elements to ensure that homeowners are able to maintain and enjoy the long-term benefits from their homes’ green features. For a home to be NGBS Green Certified, the homeowners/maintenance manual must include all the mandatory items and obtain enough optional points to meet the Chapter 10 point threshold.

Maintenance checklists provide a baseline for homeowners on when to perform various maintenance tasks, as well as provide a guideline for which tasks are DIY versus those that may require calling a professional. Maintenance task checklists should be organized monthly, seasonally, or annually.

Homeowner education is typically conducted upon the walk-through of the house and can be easily reinforced with use of a homeowners’ manual and/or a custom online platform. Good education and a comprehensive homeowners’ manual may even reduce call-backs, especially concerning the most common homeowner questions and concerns. Remember, homeowner education is an invaluable opportunity for you to showcase the quality of the green or high-performance home you have built, and your level of customer service.

Home buyers often feel overwhelmed with the amount of responsibility that comes with owning a new home. Without a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities, they turn to the builder, flooding customer service with requests and questions for areas of the home that they should be maintaining. The dwellingLIVE Homeowner Manual and online platform solves this problem by providing every piece of valuable information a new home buyer needs to maintain their new home, professionally assembled and organized in an intuitive and user-friendly way!

This documentation helps builders establish greater loyalty through improved home buyer satisfaction and communication. Not only does this information recognize the significant investment made by home buyers, but it empowers them to take the lead on properly maintaining their homes. Our wellspring of climate-appropriate, industry-vetted content is a broad resource of best practices for continuous maintenance. Maintenance information management is the cornerstone of several key initiatives undertaken by the builder which will work to reduce risk, increase home buyer satisfaction, and increase internal efficiency.

dwellingLIVE is dedicated to ensuring each and every home is properly maintained. In our efforts to provide our customers with the best home experience possible, we have developed specific maintenance instructions for our clients. These documents provide homeowners with important information that will allow them to better maintain their home and ensure they have the tools available to protect their investment. It inspires them to get the most out of their home and life. Plus your legal department will love the consistency you will be able to deliver. Start reducing risk and increasing customer satisfaction today.

Help Your Homeowners (Part 1)

New HomeJust about everything we buy comes with a manual. Car? Check. Television? Yep. Camera? No doubt. But the one thing we buy that doesn’t come with a manual is precisely the purchase that needs one the most, a new house.

There are maintenance needs for a home that the common homeowner is unaware of, and homebuilders likely won’t realize they were being neglected until things break. Buying a home is the biggest investment that most American families will make. And smart homeowners know that maintaining their home protects their investment.

The unfortunate reality is the day a house is built it starts to decline. Regular maintenance performed by the educated homeowner will minimize that decline. If maintenance is not carried out, or something simply gets worn out, repair will be required, which by its nature, requires some degree of financial investment from either the owner or builder.

Home maintenance can cover a wide range of activities that can be categorized into interior and exterior tasks or by home system, such as plumbing, heating and cooling, electrical, and landscaping/grounds maintenance. Certain maintenance tasks should be performed monthly, seasonally, or annually but how do your homeowners know what to do and when to do it?

Homes today are increasingly complex – they involve systems within systems, integrated technologies, and dozens of “pieces” or components that homeowners rely on every day. Each home component – including systems, appliances, finishes, etc. – has its own make, model, serial number, user manual, warranty information, and more.

A comprehensive homeowners’ manual is the key to maintaining and understanding all of these complex components. It is a compilation of information to help homeowners quickly and easily find the information to operate and maintain their homes properly. With green homes this is particularly important, as the efficiency and effectiveness of all the various elements that make the home “green” are very interrelated and cannot be overlooked. Homeowner education and documentation via a homeowners’ manual or online platform is required by all the major certifying agencies – Leed for Homes, GreenPoint, National Green Building Standard (NGBS), and even state programs like CalGreen in California. But beyond that, it’s just good business!

Responses from NAHB and Guild Quality’s recent survey, “Homeowner’s Perspective: The Value of a Green Home,” illustrated that homeowners would like more education from their builders.2 Owners of Green Certified homes specifically requested education to “understand how to operate and maximize the benefits of the green-related features in their home.” Taking adequate, timely care of a home is extremely beneficial in the long run and a homeowners’ manual helps homeowners – your clients – protect their most significant and important investment.

Importance of Strategic Business Partners

Handshake on a business meeting

In today’s society is there really a secret formula to building a successful company? Nowadays companies have to be transparent and there is no such thing as secrets in the business world. Therefore, a huge amount of the “secret formula” in today’s business is in collaboration! This in many situations means for companies to invite and be invited as a strategic partner.

You might ask what is so beneficial about business partnerships. Strategic business partnerships provide businesses with the opportunity to increase their customer base, and or use partnerships to strengthen weak aspects of their business. In both cases the plan should be to identify consumer’s wants and needs and find partners that can resolve them. Such opportunities are developed by identifying what your customers want from products and services and making strategic partners play a “thought leadership” role within your business, effectively adding the missing piece to the puzzle. Thus, partnerships for businesses create and give access to new products, reach of new markets, surpass competitors, and even increase customer loyalty.

So, what is it that makes an alliance truly strategic to a particular company? Here are five general criteria that differentiate strategic partnerships:

  1. Critical to the success of a core business goal or objective.
  2. Critical to the development or maintenance of a core competency or other source of competitive advantage.
  3. Blocks a competitive threat.
  4. Creates or maintains strategic choices for the firm.
  5. Mitigates a significant risk to the business.

The essential issue when developing a strategic partnership is to understand which of these criteria the other party views as strategic. If either partner misunderstands the other’s expectation of the alliance, it is likely to fall apart.

Regardless of the industry in which your business operates, having an ally on your side in the form of a strategic partner will benefit your company. A strategic partnership or an alliance will give you a competitive advantage and an opportunity to access a broader range of resources and expertise. This means that the partnership can offer clients distinctive skill sets and product lines that are different from the competition. Successful partnerships and alliances rely on the principle that the work involved in maintaining a partnership, and the benefits from the alliance are equally spread, rather than one partner carrying the load whilst the other reaps the benefits.

When entering into a strategic partnership or alliance, there is a lot to consider, however keeping the following tips in mind will help you on your journey:

  • Focus on Outcomes. It is important to know what you can, and are prepared to deliver, and what you would like in return from your potential partner. Approaching a partner without a clear plan can cause them to lose interest.
  • Commitment. The level of commitment required from each party needs to be considered. The nature of your business and that of the partnership or alliance will determine how much each party needs to give in order to keep the partnership or alliance healthy.
  • Collaboration. The extent to which you will be happy to share resources with partners will need to be considered. Generally, the more collaborative the partnership or alliance, the more successful the endeavor is. However, it is also important to keep in mind that you are not merging with the partner organization, rather you are forming an alliance and so total sharing of resources is not necessary.
  • Communication. An emphasis on effective communication between partners is essential. Open and effective channels of communication between members of the partnership or alliance will ensure that there are no misaligned expectations between the parties.

One thing that is imperative in creating successful partnerships is a shared vision and enthusiasm. Remember, that not every detail of operations can be planned for, and the success of the endeavor will depend on the amount of trust and communication between the parties.

dwellingLIVE’s business approach responds successfully to the needs of homebuilders and changing industry regulations by developing and supporting a core group of traditional and technology-focused products that allow our clients to improve customer satisfaction, reduce risk, operate more efficiently, and focus on what they do best: building homes.

Don’t Do It Yourself

Hands with DIY tools.

If you are a fan of home renovation shows, you will know that DIY stands for ‘Do-It-Yourself’. Those shows often feature horror stories of people who have tried to do their own projects because they thought they could easily figure it out on their own and save some money by going the DIY route. Instead, many do-it-yourselfers never complete the job and often make costly mistakes.

I wish I could collect a dollar every time a business owner tells me that getting the help they need is “too expensive” or “I can’t afford it”. In almost every case they don’t know the true cost of DIY because they’ve never taken the time to examine the numbers. Their answer has no factual data to back it up. It’s an emotional decision, not a business decision. They are, quite literally, chasing pennies with dollars.

We’re beginning to see a marked increase in home builders attempting DIY projects, following a challenging couple of years. One thing hasn’t changed, though – budgets are tighter than ever. As a result, home builders are drawn to the notion of internally managing their risk strategies and developing maintenance and marketing programs in order to “save money.” When it comes to risk management and satisfied customers that may have a significant impact on the future or your organization, those savings may, at best, be illusory.

It’s important to know what jobs you can do yourself and what projects are best left to the professionals. Some jobs can be simple enough to tackle successfully. Others clearly require expert skills. It’s the jobs between those two extremes that can be tricky. DIY’s cost savings may seem enticing, but if your skills aren’t up to snuff, the result won’t impress.

You need to bring some financial intelligence to the game. You need to understand some simple ROI. Do you know how much a customer is worth, on average, to your business? If not, here’s how to find this important number:

Write down the number of clients/customers you served last month (Or whatever time period makes sense to you. If your business is seasonal, you may want to look at 12 months to get a true average). Now write down your gross sales for the same time period. Divide that by the number of customers. This gives you the average revenue from a single customer. How does this number help? Great question! Glad you asked. Let me give you an example. XYZ Sales serves 20 customers a month with sales of $4,000. That means each new customer is potentially worth $200 a month to XYZ.

But Jane, who owns XYZ is spending more than 25% of her time (10 hours per week) stuck in the office doing admin work, invoicing and other non-revenue generating activities. Almost 40 hours a month. Jane estimates it takes an average of 10 hours to find and convert a prospect into a new client so those 40 hours are costing her 4 new clients per month or $800 in sales. At the end of 12 months Jane is missing almost $10,000 in her revenue stream for that one month alone.

Even scarier, she knows as long as this situation continues, the number continues to grow. (And, yes I know I’m not allowing for attrition but I want to keep this simple and straightforward).

Along comes Sue, a virtual assistant, who offers to help Jane with the workload. Because this is Sue’s area of expertise and excellence, she can complete the same 40 hours of work in 20. Her rate is $25 an hour or $500 a month. Jane’s time is freed up to find new customers and keep her existing ones happy so they stay.

Knowing the numbers, what advice would you give Jane? Now ask yourself how much time you are putting into non-revenue producing tasks in your own business. What is that actually costing you?

There are many parallels between DIY and risk management DIY. For instance, there are some things the organization must do itself, while other tasks require specialized knowledge or experience that you may not have in-house. The risk of starring in your own DIY nightmare can be high if you do the minimum to get by.

All successful risk management leaders know what they can and must do internally versus where they need to get expert advice. What actions can you take to enhance your risk management program? “DIY projects are rarely as easy as they seem, and all too often it ends up costing you.”

Doing the work yourself may result in an acceptable outcome and allow your staff and committee to cross the project off the to-do list and return to their “real jobs.” But, engaging a professional experienced firm will result in an exceptional product that will drive the future success of your organization and enhance both your reputation and risk management program for years to come.

Learn more!

The High Cost of Not Finding Information

More and more we find that people don’t understand how much money it costs when you simply cannot find the information you need. There are many causes for this malfunction — some procedural, some educational, and some technical. The quantity of time spent in ineffective searching for vital information is enormous, leading to overwhelming costs to builders. These information disasters are a growing threat, and one that few businesses can ignore.

Businessman with binoculars.

In today’s world there are all kinds of information disasters. All businesses deal with outdated, incorrect, and lost information on a daily basis. There are several reasons for this dilemma. First, information is scattered in multiple repositories and databases all over most organizations. No one knows what exists or where it is, and there is no single unified access point or process to find it.

Second, with the advent of the World Wide Web, every professional worker has become an information searcher. Without information training and skills, most people don’t know where to look, how to ask for what they are seeking or when it is OK to stop looking. One answer looks very much like another unless the searcher understands what constitutes valid information.

Third, most employees are inundated with too much information, and they are limited by the tools they have to help them. Everyone seems to be working longer hours and getting less and less done. We are bombarded by e-mail, copies of presentations, alerts of new interesting articles, meetings and all of the other information trappings that go with being a knowledge worker. We spend hours trying to track down something that we found only yesterday, but it seems to have disappeared. We try to reach colleagues who have missing pieces of the puzzle, and they and their computers with the notes from that meeting in January have disappeared for vacation or, worse, left the company altogether. In short, we spend a lot of time spinning our wheels looking for things and not finding them.

We know that roughly 50% of most Web searches are abandoned. That translates into 50% fewer online sales, 50% more frustrated customers trying to solve a problem or get information, and 50% more phone calls that must be handled. Some studies suggest that 90% of the time that knowledge workers spend in creating new reports or other products is spent in recreating information that already exists. According to an IDC study “The cost of intellectual rework, substandard performance and inability to find knowledge resources was $5,000 per worker per year.”1

How do we know when a project has taken twice as long as it should have for lack of access to information? The fact is that knowledge workers rarely turn out measurable products, and each project is slightly different from the one before. If they can’t find the information on which to base their output, they may have to submit poor quality work to meet a deadline.

Top companies overwhelmingly agree that having organized accessible information leads to highly improved decision making, decreased labor expense, and increased efficiency. According to another IDC survey “76% of company executives considered information to be mission critical and their company’s most important asset. Yet, 60% felt that time constraints and lack of understanding of how to find information were preventing their employees from finding the information they needed.” 1

Several studies have proven that new approaches to this dilemma significantly increase ROI for improved access to information. ROI figures vary from 38% to over 600%. It is very clear that the cost of not locating information in your business is substantial. Unfortunately for the company these costs are hidden, thus rarely apparent to your bottom line.

Information disasters are caused not by lack of information, but rather by not connecting the right information to the right people at the right time. People use information within the context of what they are doing. They need to have access to the right information, but only when they need it. And they need to be assured that the access is guaranteed, easy, fast and reliable.

Effective document management is much more than simply storing key documents. It’s about finding what you need when you need it. And for builders who must keep track of thousands of documents, a secure online archive is a powerful way to quickly and easily address the risks associated with right to repair laws, CSI codes, CDL lawsuits and warranty claims. dwellingLIVE’s proven information strategies deliver organized accessible information that improves decision making, decreases labor expenses, and increases operational efficiency for your company.

Managing Your Customer Relationships

Focusing on customer communication is vital to the long-term success of any business.

New HomeIn the early stages of the relationship, effective communication ensures your product or service meets the customer’s immediate needs. As time goes on, regular communication with your customer base allows you to adapt and grow so you can continue to meet their expectations.

 When running a business the amount of attention devoted to each customer becomes increasingly stretched as your company develops and the client base expands. When growth places additional strain on the product or services you deliver, it is essential to remain aware of the importance of managing customer relationships.

Customers expect a high level of service. Regardless of the quality of the product or service you provide, they will not stay loyal to you on a long-term basis unless you treat them properly before, during and after a sale.

Keep customers involved and satisfied at all times.

Regular interaction with your customers will help build trust and loyalty. If your customers believe that you are communicating with them openly, they will feel their relationship with you is one of mutual trust.

Standards of service are constantly improving, so keeping customers satisfied is a continuous process. Ensure your whole business is focused on meeting your customers’ evolving needs. Your product or service may be excellent, but the customer experience can be undermined by slow responses, sloppy fixes, or an off-hand contractor.

Comply with your legal obligations to keep customers informed.

Under selling rules you are legally obliged to provide customers with certain information about their purchase, including a description of the goods or service, price, cancellation rights and warranty information.

Use every channel available to communicate with your customers.

As well as telephoning your customers to keep in touch, you might use your website – or even an extranet – to provide them with useful information and gather feedback. You might email your customers regularly with useful tips and warranty information – but make sure you have permission to contact them in this way and follow CAN-SPAM laws.

Customer Feedback Happy Rating

Use a range of means to find out more about customers and how you can satisfy their unique needs.

Use technology to develop the relationship you have with your customers. For example, if you have a website, provide a feedback form for customers and post answers to frequently asked questions. Use print or email newsletters to keep them in touch with your business developments, community updates, warranty claims, and important maintenance reminders.

Put processes in place to gather feedback at every opportunity.

Do not wait until customers approach you with problems – they may not tell you about them until it’s too late. Be proactive and set up processes to collect feedback. Give everyone dealing with your customers a feedback form. This ensures that if there is a problem it can be rectified quickly.

Always act on any problems that you identify. Thank customers for their feedback and let them know if you implement any changes as a result.

Take your customer satisfaction to the next level with dwellingLIVE’s proven processes.

Being continually recognized as the industry leader in development, production, and distribution of content and information management solutions for homebuilders, dwellingLIVE provides innovative products and strategies that increase your customer communication, overall efficiency, and bottom line revenue. Our superior products allow homebuilders a reliable and convenient tool to interact with their homeowners 24-7 via a personalized website.

dwellingLIVE delivers tremendous value for you and your customers by educating your homebuyers on maintenance/warranty processes, which can lead to decreased work order requests. We also provide multiple channels for communication with your home buyers, increasing the probability that they will use the resources you provided them and in turn, create a positive customer experience. We help you empower your customers to care for their home, which increases the value of your brand and reduces litigation exposure. Ultimately, partnering with dwellingLIVE will increase customer satisfaction, referrals, and lead to reduced costs.

The Tech You Need in Your Homes

Who doesn’t love hi-tech gadgets? They can make daily tasks easier or just make life more enjoyable. Check out these hi-tech gadgets and upgrades that can turn your community into a futuristic neighborhood.

Lockitronhome digital
Everyone’s experienced it at least once. You leave your home, but it’s not until you’re miles away that you wonder if you locked the door. With Lockitron, you don’t have to wonder. The device comes with an app that tells you if the door is locked or unlocked. It even allows you to monitor your family members by telling you who has left or entered the house.

Acoustable is a minimalist coffee table, but that’s not all it is. Sure, you can set your drink on it or kick back and put your feet on it, but it can do so much more. It has a high-end sound system, but you can also connect your smartphone to it. It allows you to play music from your phone while also charging it.

Floor Plan Light Switch
Getting the perfect lighting can be difficult, but with the Floor Plan Light Switch, you have more control than ever. Instead of a switch, the control has a layout of the floorplan. You simply press the area you want lit, and the light comes on. This is also a great way to have all your light controls in one place. No more entering that dark hallway to find the light switch.

Hi-Can Bed
The Hi-Can Bed is the only way to sleep. First, it is an elegant and modern four-poster style bed. Like traditional four-post beds, it has shades to keep you in the dark while you sleep. However, it’s also technologically advanced. With a high quality sound system, built-in PC and entertainment console, you won’t ever want to get out of bed.

Cybertecture Mirror
Just looking at yourself in the mirror is so last year. With the Cybertecture Mirror, you can see so much more. It allows you to install apps, which display information on the mirror, such as news and weather. You can keep up to date on what’s going on outside while you get ready for your day.

Technology is constantly evolving, and while some of these may seem a little more outrageous than others, they are all designed to make your life a little better. Turn your house into the talk of the neighborhood with these great devices.