Tuesday, April 5, 2011


Until now, I've always sent out industry surveys to builders and factory owners that were in the Modular Home Builder database but since the readership is growing faster than my grandchildren, it's time to open it up to everyone that reads this blog.

The past surveys have touched on business trends and specific topics that might interest management or factory owners.  This time I'm opening it up to EVERYONE!  Modular Home factory owners, management, all factory workers, the modular home builder, the site builder and lastly the new home buyer and those that are looking at building a new home in the near future.

Today I'm looking for your positive comments about ways we can improve our industry and the modular home buying process.

What can the factory people do to make the process easier?

What can the builders do to help the factory?

How can sales people help the builders?

How can prospective home owners know which factory best fits their needs?

What suggestions do you have to improve the service department?  ... Engineering?  ... Transportation?

How can we improve the image of modular housing?

I will publish any and all comments EXCEPT ones that slam a particular factory.  This is about ways to improve our industry, not tearing it down.


Bob Eppinette said...

Here are my comments concerning your survey. I am a possible future modular home buyer, but rignt now I trying to figure out if this is the way to go.

What can the factory people do to make the process easier?
Put customer service first!!! I have a private consulting business and my customers come first. Over 75% of my business is repeat customers. Customer service and the good things customers say about you is MOST important.
I read Modular Today and a lot of the negative comments are about customer service.

What can the builders do to help the factory?
Same as above - customer service. MOST of the negative comments in Modular Today are about problems assembling the modules - roof leaking, walls out of plumb, walls cracked, plumbing or electrical problems.

As a possible future modular customer, I would like to know why can't the factory have their own service crews. Why do I have to deal with a builder and the factory??? I would think the builder could care less if the roof leaks. They will blame it on the factory and the factory will blame it on the builder. This is why I might go with a stick built house - I'll only have to deal with a builder.

How can sales people help the builders?
This is where a good communicator is needed.

How can prospective home owners know which factory best fits their needs?
I read the comments in Modular Today.

What suggestions do you have to improve the service department? ... Engineering? ... Transportation?
I think you need regional or local project managers that: acts as a sales person; takes care of local marketing; deals with realtors, developers and builders; handles permitting issues; meets and helps customers with the design of the house, site planning.... Marketing is sorely lacking in my area. I never hear or see anything about modular homes in newspapers or magazines. You do a very poor job of promoting your product.

How can we improve the image of modular housing?
You can start by eliminating the negative comments I read in Modular Today. I think you have too many "hands in the fire". Quit relying solely on buiilders. 80% of the work is done in the factory, why can't the factories finish the other 20%???

Bob Eppinette
Lowcountry Soil Consulting LLC
890 Hiers Corner
Walterboro, SC 29488
843-908-3533 cell
843-549-2738 home or fax

Anonymous said...

What can the factory people do to make the process easier?

Think about how the builder on site will receive the product. Does what we are doing make the building process easier on site? Don’t just get the work done and product out the door. Think about what you are doing.

What can the builders do to help the factory?

Provide timely and appropriate feedback. Visit the factory so you understand the process from the factories perspective and implement where possible on site.

How can sales people help the builders?

Be honest with the builder about the limitations of the factory. Don’t over promise to get the sale

How can prospective home owners know which factory best fits their needs?

Prospective home owners should visit the factories and decide which one best meets their expectations

What suggestions do you have to improve the service department? ... Engineering? ...

The Service department needs to learn how to work with the builder. Honour commitments (charge backs), provide timely settlements for authorized on site work, handle short shipped times as soon as possible, talk to the builders. Do site visits.

How can we improve the image of modular housing?

Use feedback from happy home owners. Testimonials are our greatest endorsement

Anonymous said...


As you and many of your readers have aptly pointed out in various postings, change needs to come to many areas of this industry. The Modular Building Systems Association (MBSA) has members that believe this, yet struggle daily with what that change might look like and how to achieve it. This industry has suffered greatly over the past several years and unfortunately, the resources to effect meaningful change on a large scale have never been scarcer. Nonetheless, the time to have this discussion is now.

The purpose of my posting is not a request for membership in the MBSA. True change, however, will only be possible if factories, suppliers and builders unite in pursuit of a goal and EVERYONE dedicates the necessary time and resources to effect change through a common organization. For the last thirty plus years that has not happened and as a result the industry has ridden the coat tails of the overall construction market with predictable results.

I am willing to talk with anyone at any time about what their vision is and how the industry might begin slay the elusive beast named “Change.” I look forward to reviewing the comments to this article.

Chad C. Harvey
MBSA Executive Director
(717) 238-9130 ext. 12

Anonymous said...

What can the factory people do to make the process easier?

Be invited to play a role with company leaders on setting policy and solving problems internally first with the overall goal of taking care of the customer.

What can the builders do to help the factory?

Be honest even when they question the factory's intent...
Do their part in the process to insure they are clear and specific in their order details, preparing the site correctly, and communicating clearly and effectively with factory personnel

How can sales people help the builders?

Learn, learn, learn...know what's going on in the market...
Find a good idea or concept every day that can be passed onto to the builder to help them succeed...
Don't blame everything on the factory when talking to th buildr and blame everything onthe builder when talking to the factory...
Create a system of clear, concise and consistent communication so that everyone from the line to the trim-out contractor understands their role...

How can prospective home owners know which factory best fits their needs?

Builders should be relaying this info based on their experiences...
regardless of what they think, manufacturers do produce products of different level of quality, design capability, completion, etc...

What suggestions do you have to improve the service department? ... Engineering? ... Transportation?

Service is the crappiest job in the industry and should be looked at instead as one of the most effective marketing tools...IBM had that part right, I remember a major customer of theirs being quoted saying that they were a client because they knew that if something ever went wrong, 50 company service folks would be coming from all directions including by parachute to get the problem resolved immediately! I feel that service is our weakest area, not because of the people but because of lack of leadership with testicles to make it a priority

Transportation...clearly defined role and actions with delivery obligations...team players whether contracted or inhouse...transportaion manager must know customer service instead of being an antagonist to customers trying to schedule delivery...

Engineering...yes we think you are bright and creative...no do not assume you know what the customer wants and put it in your drawings...and, you are a very valuable part of the process, work to make it smoother as opart of the team not create roadblocks

How can we improve the image of modular housing?

take ownership for the good and the bad...become more professional through training, education, and research...do the harder right instead of the easier wrong...there will always be people who look for the easiest way out, but never a surplus of those who put integrity and discipline to get it right the first time...the industry needs to truly strive for perfection...a zero defects attitude...

Sheri Koones said...

One of the most important things the prefab industry needs to do is educate the consumer. When homeowners find out how great prefab methods are - they rarely choose to build on-site. Unfortunately there is still many misconceptions out there about prefab - and this is only because people are ignorant of the realities of these types of construction. That said - I am doing my part to try and educate and inspire consumers about prefab. It would be great if manufacturers would support the books I write and give them to perspective customers. My latest book - Prefabulous + Sustainable is available at a discounted bulk rate from Abrams and could be the best tool you have to sell a modular house.

Heywood said...

With all due respect, the first thing the industry needs to do is educate itself.
Each group within the industry might know their particular area, but, it is rare to find folks well versed in the entire process.
How much does a salesman know about codes? QA Process? Permit applications? etc.

John Haddad said...

One of the big questions that was not asked is what can factory management do to help the modular home industry? I have worked for a number of factories as a sales rep and many of the suggestions I would give my sales manager fell on deaf ears. Most of the sales managers in the modular home industry have been out of direct contact with their builder base of onesy twosey builders for years. The sales rep who is perpetually working with these builders often hear of what would make life easier and more fruitful for these builders. Times have changed since many sales managers actually worked in sales rather than firemen putting out fires. If sales management would listen to salesmen more often, some of the difficulties in the modular home industry could be smushed.

Deming believed that everyone is everyone's customer.

The order of the sale
Home Buyer
Sales Person
Sales Manager

The sales managers role is to serve the salesmen and give them all of the tools required to make selling homes easier for the builder and easier for the retail customer to buy modular.

The irony of Deming is the sales process goes backwards at the same time. The Deming system is based on responsibility and accountability for all parties involved in a transaction.

Builder Bob said...

I've been selling modular homes for many years and nothing has changed since the first house I sold up to and including today. Factory people just want to sell all the houses they can but forget about servicing the builder and making repairs if needed.
I get nothing from my sales rep except literature and a call about once a week asking if I have any homes that he can quote for me. Listen up Stud, if I have any homes that need quoted, I'll call you.

Anonymous said...

First thing is for all of us to understand our industry. And in deference to Ms. Koones it IS NOT PREFAB.
How long as the modular industry worked AGAINST that term and now with NEW FOLKS (architects, home designers, writers, etal) they must not like the term modular so they go back to the all inclusive PREFAB. What is wrong with calling it what it truly is -- FULLY CODE COMPLIANT MODULAR!!!

Salesman said...

Add a little positive comment to news posted on this blog. Example, Champion Home Builders has reorganized by investors who are making a turn around with this company. A few months ago they gave away a Modular home to a disabled veteran in Tampa, Florida. This is good news for the Modular Home business. The city of Tampa would not allow the Modular home if they didn't think it was a good home.


What can the factory people do to make the process easier?
Factories need to Work harder to generate more leads for the retailer and developers of Modular Homes. Many customers still think they can get a better deal going directly to the factory so the contact the factorys first. The manufacturers are usually the top in all search engines.

The factories should also contact the customers directly to answer certain questions instead of just forwarding an email to a retailer. The customer may take offense to that.

How can sales people help the builders?
Sales people can take the time to learn their product better. The more of a consultant you are the more value you bring. Builders look to the sales people for answers not just non-personal selling.

How can prospective home owners know which factory best fits their needs?
Prospective home owners need to research a little by going into builder forums and asking questions. Most factorys build a very good modular home (Mostly because the building codes they have to follow)but the internet offers immediate answers to questions and concerns customers have. Also visit several factorys, ask well thought out questions and then decide for yourself.

What suggestions do you have to improve the service department? ... Engineering? ... Transportation?
Service Department - No the customer is not always right but consistent contact especially if you change the service date is a must. Don't let a service person leave after the work is done until the customer signs off that the work was completed satisfactory. To save money on service cost every home built at the factory should be inspected by the final supervisor, quality control and sales person (or sales coordinator) for issues before leaving the factory. A paper with things that need to be fixed is given to the division mgr, service mgr, sales mgr and plant mgr so they know what needs to be done before shipment.
Engineering - Even though engineering gets backed up (Hire more people) the speed to which a salesperson and developer needs to get a price is important. No customer wants to wait 3 days to a week for pricing because they may lose their customer's interest.
Transportation - Don't always use the cheapest. The best transporters do a lot more work delivering, spotting and setting a home in the position needed on a property than a cheaper one.

How can we improve the image of modular housing?
Don't lie by saying it is cheaper than stick built housing is today. It's not. Tell the benefits of buying and owning a Modular home (Not just features). Establish more article links on websites from happy customers and developers of Modular homes. Testimonials is still one of the best selling tools around. Infomercials use them constantly (with bad actors I may say).

Buddy King said...

John Haddad hit the nail on the head. I was one of those sales Managers he was talking about. I worked for three Different Manufacturers and at some point I was promoted to Sales manger. I began to interface daily with upper management. That's when I began to see the "I know everything there is to know" attitude.Once upper management gets the "anointment" of all Knowledge then life for a sales
rep or sales manager become "robotic or else"!!
"Been There done that"
Buddy King

Jonathan Trott said...

I found your post comments while searching Google. Very relevant especially as this is not an issue which a lot of people are conversant with....
Customer Service Survey Questions