Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Cutting Down on Those Expensive Service and Quality Issues

30 years ago I managed a large lumber yard servicing builders and tract home developers with lumber, plumbing, electrical, roofing and just about everything needed to build a home. There wasn’t a day went by without one of my customers calling or stopping in to tell me how they had problems with the product I sold them.

It didn’t matter if it was an Andersen window, a Moen faucet, Owens Corning shingles or lumber, they assumed we stocked everything in the back room and hand picked bad product to send them.

In almost every situation it wasn’t bad product it was improper installation or not ordering the right product for the job.

And here we are 40 years later and the same things continue to happen only this time to the people that supply product to the modular housing industry. I’ve heard from several suppliers over the past few months expressing their bad experiences with product they’ve supplied.

I know there always has been and will continue be an occasional bad product sent to a job site or modular factory for a new home but the old rule of 80/20 applies even to this situation. 80% of product problems boils down to improper installation or not ordering the right product for the job.

Today’s new home buyer has a “go to” place to check every aspect of the home their builder supplied them. It’s the Internet. If a customer walks into their new home and even thinks something doesn’t look quite right they Google it, search YouTube and even ask total strangers on Facebook and Twitter for help.


Then they tell the builder they found a problem that needs fixed and it was verified by “@problemchild91” on Twitter or saw it when they watched an 8 year old video on YouTube.

Now the builder is in the hot seat and naturally he/she turns to the factory to fix, replace or remove the problem. The factory service department, even though it is not considered a profit center for the factory nevertheless has a percentage budgeted for each house and the less than the budgeted amount they have to spend on repairs or service the better for the company’s bottom line.

One very effective way to quickly acknowledge if there will be potential problems with a new modular home is to have a sales rep or a QA rep at every house set. Most builders would like to have someone from the factory at the set.

If the house has problems caused by the factory or has parts missing, this would be the time for acknowledgments, not days or months later. Factories could have a sales rep do this or assign someone from the factory to be at the set. It would be interesting if someone from management would visit one or two sets a year to see how the product looks upon arrival. I guarantee that eyes would be opened.

Everyone has a cell phone that takes great pictures. It costs absolutely nothing to take a couple hundred pictures at the house set and during the initial walk through which would show in detail if there are issues that need addressed by the factory. Put the pictures on a memory card and put it in the house folder at factory.

Builders have a three tier approach to communicating problems they encounter with a new home. First they talk to their sales rep who then talks to the person at the factory that can actually handle the request or problem.

The third tier is the one that frustrates builders the most. It always falls into the lap of of Ida Know. She holds it in her" in" basket until the builder starts getting upset and begins calling anyone and everyone at the factory. Soon the builder is red flagged as a trouble maker and nobody wants to talk with them.

A dedicated Customer Service rep at the factory serving builders and their customers would make life a lot easier for everyone. Builders would have someone to talk with and the Customer Service rep could be the hub of centralized communications. This would not be a job for the new hire or someone without knowledge of the entire process. A retired builder or sales rep working from home could act like a call center and defuse a lot of problems quickly and also be the voice everyone knows that’s there to help.

There are some modular home factories that actually have their own set crew at the house that can report back about problems and some have a QA person or sales rep at every home set.

You have to wonder if they found this a good way to head off problems early.


Gary W said...

I worked at a company that did have a factory rep at the set or do a "walk through" inspection within 3 days of a set. This was done with the builder and or the retail customer. This program allowed the company to acknowledge any issues and address them. The bigger message sent was this was a company that cared about their customers. It also gave us the ability to identify and high repetition issues. However this company went by the wayside.

Anonymous said...

I doubt the personal touch was the reason for it closing. Probably had more to do with poor cash flow or bad management. Maybe they simply survive the last housing recession.