Charlie Scott has more than 25 years of hands-on homebuilding experience, much of this in senior management positions with an award-winning, nationally recognized Midwest builder. He credits a "Voice of the Customer" firm as instrumental in his homebuilding company's strategic growth and success. Today, Charlie is an owner of that "Voice of the Customer" firm – Woodland, O’Brien & Scott – and helps North American home builders grow their own customer-centric cultures, pursue operational excellence, and increase referral sales. Charlie is an internationally known customer satisfaction expert and has presented keynote addresses in the U.S., United Kingdom and India. Charlie also authored the book, “Construction Knowledge 101” to help builder personnel in all functions understand the nature of homebuilding. He would love to hear you from you at: CharlieS@woodlandobrien.com.
The 2011 “Black Friday” sales numbers are in and show a pleasantly surprising 16% gain in year-over-year retail sales! Some economists, pollsters, and industry “experts” expected consumerism to be flat or even down this year; proving once again that rational surveys do not accurately capture consumer emotions.
Here are two Black Friday observations – first, asking consumers a rational rating question, i.e. “On a 1 to 10 scale, what is your likeliness to spend more this year on Black Friday shopping?” does not adequately capture the emotional drivers behind consumer behavior. Surveys that do not capture emotional drivers, are weaker predictors of consumers’ needs, feelings, wants and behaviors. Furthermore, consumers can not accurately predict their shopping behavior, since they don't know how emotionally involved they will become during their shopping experience.
The second observation is even more crucial. Where were home builders this Black Friday? During this year’s record setting shopping season I did not see builders advertise more open hours, (instead many cut back), nor offer a great one-day-only sale, or encourage a sales office visit with a low dollar gift card to the very stores these Black Friday shoppers planned to patronize. If nothing else, this could have been an opportunity to create a little home building buzz! Many high end retailers participated and presumably benefited – why not home builders, too?
Home building is definitely a retail business. Hours of operation should reflect what the public wants, products should be current, customer service should always be outstanding, and we should understand our consumers’ needs, wants, feelings, and behaviors. After all – it is their money! And, as much as some may have disagreed with the “moving forward” of Black Friday, consumers seem to have liked it, well at least 16% more.
We believe the best way to understand customers is through well executed customer research. Understanding what your current customers like, want and need, begets a better experience, and thus, more customers.