Expectations are Everything

Follow-UpDon’t kid yourself – we are building, marketing, and selling an emotional product in our industry.  And when it comes to the feelings of our customers, like it or not, perception is reality.  I know one thing for sure about all homebuyers.  They don’t like to wait.  How do I know this?  Because nobody likes to wait.  Nobody.  In fact, when we’re waiting our internal clock runs at a different rate than reality.

Envirosell, a retail consultancy, has timed shoppers in line with a stopwatch to determine how real wait times compared with how long shoppers felt they had waited. Up to about two to three minutes, the perception of the wait “was very accurate,” says Paco Underhill, Envirosell’s founding president and author of  “Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping.”

But after three minutes, the perceived wait time multiplied with each passing minute. “So if the person was actually waiting four minutes, the person said ‘I’ve been waiting five or six minutes.’ If they got to five minutes, they would say ‘I’ve been waiting 10 minutes,’” Mr. Underhill says.

So what does this mean to the Real Estate Professional?  Well…you can always just be faster, but let me assure you, you won’t be fast enough.  Even Builders with the highest satisfaction in America have customers frustrated over wait times.

We make all kinds of commitments to our customers.  Like waiting in a line, a prospect or customer who is waiting on you feels like they are waiting longer than reality.  This impacts customers with warranty requests, prospects waiting on a returned phone call, and your co-workers waiting on a response to a question.  The secret to shortening their wait time is not working faster – it’s setting better expectations.

Here’s a simple yet powerful solution – Under promise and over deliver when it comes to setting time expectations.  Yes I said under promise.  Many people over promise hoping that it will make them seem like a go-getter.  This is a false assumption.  Your reputation (and referrals) are built on what you do, not what you say.  If I tell you that I will call you back today, and I do, all I’ve done is delivered on what I promised.  However, when I tell you that I’ll call you back within 48 hours, but call you today, I have exceeded your expectations.

This has implications for virtually every department within a building organization – sales, production, warranty, finance, etc.  I assure you, you will see customer satisfaction scores increase without changing anything about your product or processes if you simply under promise and over deliver when it comes to setting time expectations.


Steve Shoemaker

Steve Shoemaker is the director of marketing for Ideal Homes - headquartered in Norman, Oklahoma. Ideal is the largest home builder in Oklahoma and the recipient of numerous local and national awards including “2007 America’s Best Builder” and 2010 “Builder of the Year” by Professional Builder Magazine. At Ideal Homes Shoemaker manages all programs designed to drive qualified foot traffic to 17 community model homes. In his day-to-day responsibilities, Shoemaker oversees brand management, research, advertising, public relations, web development, customer relations, REALTOR relations, special events, and sales support. He is also heavily involved in customer satisfaction research and improvement processes, and sales training. Prior to joining Ideal Homes, Shoemaker spent three years as a public relations account executive for Jordan Associates advertising. While at Jordan, he worked with clients ranging from economic develop to healthcare. Shoemaker holds the designation, Member: Institute of Residential Marketing from the National Association of Homebuilders. He has shared his marketing insight and passion for residential real estate with audiences at the International Builders Show, the Pacific Coast Building Conference, and with numerous local real estate and civic organizations. He, his wife Jama, and their two sons live in an Ideal Homes Community in Edmond, Oklahoma.