Tuesday, January 29, 2013

7 Steps for the Modular Home Factory to Win Back Disgruntled Builders


Some business problems are harder to fix than others but few can as frustrating for a modular home factory as losing a good builder.

There's no single way to "fix" this broken relationship. Every situation -- and every modular home builder -- is different. Success depends on your ability to listen, adapt, evolve, and rise to the challenge.

I'm angry at my modular home factory
There are, however, important techniques that the modular home factory can use to win back unhappy or dissatisfied builders. Put these methods to work, and you'll have the tools you need to turn even the most ardent critic into a loyal -- and vocal -- repeat buider. In today's business climate, this could make the difference between success and failure for both the factory and the builder.

1. FIND OUT WHAT'S WRONG
This seems obvious, but many sales managers and their sales reps neglect to ask one vitally important question: "What happened?"

It's not necessary to open with an apology, mostly because you won't know what you're sorry for, and those mea culpas often come across as insincere anyway. Instead, open a dialogue with the builder, listen to what they're saying, and get the information you need to offer a solution.

2. GET TO THE BOTTOM OF THE PROBLEM
Once you discover why your builder is unhappy, it's time to assess who, or what, is to blame for the problem. If a miscommunication occurred, for example, you'll want to acknowledge that you or one of your employees could have done a better job of articulating a specific policy.

You may know -- or think you know -- exactly what went wrong. Yet it's also important to ask the builder how they see the problem. They'll give you a different point of view, and in the process they might show you how to come up with a better solution. You'll also open a dialogue with the builder that shows how much you value and appreciate their input.

3. OFFER A SPECIFIC PLAN OF ACTION
Once you've made it clear that you understand what went wrong and why the builder is unhappy, offer a specific strategy to make things right. Vague assurances are exactly that: vague. You're far more likely to win over an upset builder if you present them with a specific solution to the problem.

4. OFFER AN INCENTIVE
Once you've offered a solution to the problem, sweeten the deal with a price break on their next house or some other special incentive.

The idea here isn't just to win back the builder's business. You're also fighting to win back their affection, loyalty, and trust, and a genuinely kind gesture can soften even the most hardened builder.

5. EMPOWER YOUR SALES REP
If you want to solve builder service issues, you've got to give your sales rep the power to fix problems and make things right. That's especially true when it comes to dealing with unhappy builders.

If you're the only one who can make the big decision to, say, give a builder some kind of break, you're sabotaging your own builder service efforts. Your sales reps are often the first people to deal with an unhappy builder, and if they can't address the issue on the spot using their own best judgment, your business might not get another chance.

6. LAUNCH A "WIN BACK CUSTOMERS" CAMPAIGN
Assemble your sales team and create a campaign just for previous builders, particularly ones who left disgruntled or otherwise unhappy. Conduct the campaign via social media and in print to make sure you reach everyone. Tell he builders you miss them and want to do something -- whatever it takes -- to get them back. Just don’t go down the huge discount road.

The deals you present could involve price breaks, special incentives or offers tailored specifically to address ex-builders' concerns. Whatever you do, make sure you also offer incentives to your sales team, since they'll be doing the heavy lifting on this effort.

7. SEAL THE DEAL
Once you win back that unhappy builder, do your best to keep them. Start out at once by expressing your appreciation, and never stop. Remind yourself from time to time why your builder became disgruntled in the first place. The last thing you want is to have to woo back an unhappy builder a second time!

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Most factories will never be able to do t his. They do not have the intelligent trained staff to ever follow up on a plan. They usually fall on their faces immediately. This is to say the can even identify where their systems are broken.

Most plants have band aided so my systems that they can not begin to get to the root of poor quality and service.

Taking responsibility and accountability for their failures big or small to too much to admit and handle.

It is easier to put your head in the ground and hope the builder / problem goes away. t Ican then be rationalized that the builder can be easily replaced.

One of the biggest problems is that most factories are broke. Their cash flow issues effect the quality and everything else. This is not fixed quickly.

Factory jumping does not help.

New England Builder said...

I've been a modular home builder in New England for 16 years. During that time I have changed factories 3 times. My first factory closed, my second factory did me wrong and my current factory is doing a very good job.
Over the years there have been numerous sales reps call on me from every factory within 500 miles including a couple of Canadians. I can't blame them for trying to get my business but I have no reason to leave my present factory.
What I do find interesting are the number of sales reps that go from factory to factory to factory. One has been with 5 factories and talks trash about all of them.
I think one of the real reasons builders get angry with their factory is the high turnover in sales reps. They come to my door with little or no training or sales experience. Others show up with an attitude that I need them more than they need me. I listen and chuckle and send them all on their way back home.
I agree with the previous comments about the lack of taking responsibility and abandoning the angry builder as one of the main reasons I won't switch factories. Most of the factories wouldn't know how to win back a builder if they had a roadmap and flashlight.
I'm sorry, they do have a roadmap and Modcoach just gave it to them.

Robert said...

From a manufacturer's perspective, we regularly discuss whether to hire an "experienced" salesperson, or train someone new from scratch. The experienced option typically brings skills to understand some builder's needs, but often in a way different than our culture of treating builders. That can drive the builders he/she services nuts. Alternately, the same builders may run short on patience if we hire a new person until they get up-to-speed in product knowledge, builder expectations, and internal processes. Unfortunately there is no perfect answer.

As for the earlier post on factories running out of cash, I guess it is somewhat ironic that our plants are in great financial shape but find it challenging to locate builders that are equally stable and wanting to grow.

Anonymous said...

Robert you should identify your plant.

Robert said...

Our primary modular plant in the northeast is Pennwest, which is also currently building the Manorwood product after that facility was flood-destroyed in 2011. I didn't mean for my comments to be a sales-pitch, as I try to use this blog to understand what manufacturers can do better. I can be reached offline at rbender at commodorehomes dot com.

Lawrence said...

Robert, I can't believe that someone from a modular factory finally stepped up and admits who they are. Now this is refreshing. I've heard of Pennwest but since I build homes in South Carolina I don't think it would be advantageous to have you supply me.

I understand the problem of new versus experienced sales people. I've had them both. Having a new rep work with an experienced rep for a few months might be one way to get them familiar with both your company's philosophy and how to work with builders.

Robert said...

Lawrence,

Excellent point, and that works well when timing allows, or we are preparing to grow into a new market. Unfortunately, the need to make an experienced vs. new decision often happens at unexpected times.

For full disclosure, I am with The Commodore Corporation, which owns a number of modular divisions, including in the south and midwest.