With residential house sales showing a strong start in the New Year, house builders are swiftly moving ahead with plans for further development and, according to a recent RICS report, the UK aims to bring up to 5,000 new homes to the market in 2014.
In this guide, we'll take a look at how some of the big names handle crisis communications and provide some suggestions on how to tackle complaints in a way that reflects well on your brand.
Developers across the country are pledging to build huge numbers of new homes, sites are full of construction teams, jobs are being created, the banks are cautiously lending and homes are emerging. So, it looks like the roses are going to be blooming this summer around the doors of England's new homes.
Most of these new homeowners will be absolutely thrilled to receive the keys to their new property and they will step over the threshold with a huge sense of delight and excitement.
However, as the volume of happy homebuyers increases, then so too does the relative percentage of potentially unhappy customers. You will never sell thousands of homes every year and achieve 100% customer satisfaction.
Given the way we use social media today even mildly disgruntled buyers can very quickly become extremely vocal and issues can get exaggerated out of all proportion online. Ignoring social media altogether is also not a good idea. These opinions are out there and people will air their views whether you join in the debate or not, so it's far better to be aware of public opinion and be in a position to respond.
It's important to think about how you are going to best respond to negative criticisms, to resolve people's problems and protect your firm's reputation.
We have advised many house builders on how best to handle their customer care online ensuring that their customers find the answers they need and at the same time making sure that firms are able to protect their reputations.
Three main points to remember, and which will start to stand you in good stead are:
1. Remain engaged. If you have set up social media profiles and then do not monitor them on a regular basis, how will you know what's happening or what people are saying? All too often we see developers set up a Facebook page for a new development and, once the units start to shift and the initial enthusiasm dwindles, they turn away and fail to respond quickly to comments. This means that people, visit, comment and then get no response. Make sure you continue to monitor platforms or close them down and re-direct people to more current ones.
2. Take contentious conversations offline. Embarking on a war of words with an unhappy customer is never a great idea. Make a friendly apology and a promise to try to resolve the issue, give them a contact number and a person's name for them to call and encourage them to ring you to discuss it in person. You'll be amazed at how successful it can be just giving people the name of someone to contact.
And try to inject a bit of personality into your Tweets. Every housebuilder is striving to find a USP and attract customers so coming across on social media as someone you might actually want to spend more than ten minutes with stuck in a lift is a really quick win!
3. If you've resolved an issue adequately and the problem had been raised by the homeowner on social media why not proactively follow it up and tell followers that the problem has now been fixed. It's not always possible or appropriate in all cases but for example if there's been a common theme in people being unhappy about the quality of a fixture or fitting and you have changed supplier or fixed the problem why not say so?
And to finish off, it's always worth considering that sometimes people are just plain rude and you'll have to deploy all of your silky skills to bring them back down off the ceiling but remember, never rise to the bait! Here's a great blog by Matt Walsh on this which appeared in the Huffington Post and is well worth a read if you do have a really aggressive customer to deal with who refuses to listen.
Have you been affected by aggressive complaints online? Or think we've missed any obvious tips on this front? If so, let us know in the comments - we always want to hear what you have to say.
And If you want to find out more about how we can help deliver crisis communication and reputation management services, be sure to get in touch today - or check out our new eBook, providing a wealth of tips on online marketing for housebuilders:
Images used courtesy of KLM and Persimmon Homes