Remodeling Expectations: Rise of the Omnichannel Homeowner
Americans are spending more on home renovation and external home remodeling. As noted by a recent Harvard University Joint Center for Housing Studies report, “in the aftermath of the Great Recession, the U.S. home improvement and repair industry has fared much better than the broader housing market.” In 2018, homeowners collectively were predicted to spend almost $340 billion — 7.5 percent more than 2017 — to upgrade or repair their homes.
But just as the market has changed since 2008’s recession, so have consumer expectations. The rise of always-connected mobile devices and cutting-edge applications now drives demand for an omnichannel customer experience — one that allows consumers to find products, order materials and communicate with contractors wherever, whenever they want. According to Inc., 73 percent of customers “want the ability to track orders across all points of interaction.”
The result? General contracting firms must empower executives, managers and salespeople to leverage omnichannel experiences and improve customer satisfaction.
Building Better Relationships
Homeowners are taking charge. Instead of heading to local big box stores for help choosing and ordering materials, they’re opting for digital alternatives, searching e-commerce stores and online portals to find exactly what they want and have it delivered directly.
The online shift is also changing how clients find contractors; instead of asking for recommendations at the local hardware store, homeowners are reading reviews online and reaching out to prospective providers via email or mobile devices. This is the first step in the omnichannel journey — as noted by Small Business Trends, 82 percent of consumers now expect a response from companies within 10 minutes no matter which communication channel they choose. These quick, informative replies form the basis of digital consumer/retailer relationships, but they’re just the beginning.
Next in any rebuild or external home remodeling is the critical step of meeting homeowners on their property to evaluate the scope of work and create an estimate. Consumers are wary of this process, worried that estimates and expectations may not align or that companies will inflate measurements or material costs to drive up the total price. Here, general contractors need both physical and digital tools — personability and confidence in their field of expertise can help put homeowners at ease, while the use of mobile solutions such as 3D measurement and modeling apps help encourage consumer trust.
Consider an exterior remodeling job. Using ladders and tape measures means hours to complete an estimate, with homeowners forced to either trust your measurements or make their own. If estimates don’t match consumer predictions — even if you’re accurate — the consumer/client relationship suffers. By leveraging 3D modeling and measurement applications, however, contractors can complete estimates quickly, show homeowners exactly how measurements were taken and share the 3D model. The result? Saved time, improved confidence and more accurate quotes.
Managing and Organizing Data
Homeowners expect contractors to keep their data safe — and ensure it’s accessible on demand. Pen-and-paper estimates make this problematic: What happens if files are misplaced or adjustments must be made to scope or materials? It’s easy for contractors to get buried under mountains of paperwork, while customers get increasingly frustrated that they aren’t getting up-to-date information.
This data divide also goes the other way. Consider a homeowner hiring a contractor to carry out insurance-covered repairs. Contracting managers are often caught between homeowners and adjustors, faced with the dual problem of getting homes fixed ASAP while also ensuring their scope of work is accurate. While homeowners can generally describe their scope of loss, this isn’t detailed enough to draft an estimate — meaning contractors must go out in person to obtain basic measurements and get the process started, in turn decreasing consumer satisfaction. Even small jobs can turn into big headaches when homeowners are forced to juggle work schedules, adjuster availability and childcare needs just to obtain accurate measurements of their property.
Opting for omnichannel lets companies both manage data and improve response times: Using 3D modeling applications like HOVER, homeowners can capture accurately-measured photos of the damaged property, send them to general contractors and jump-start the estimate and approvals process.
Actively Facilitating Client-Contractor-Supplier Communication
True omnichannel customer experience lets customers do what they want, when they want — and facilitates streamlined communication across multiple providers. Consider an exterior home renovation project. Homeowners are now using 3D modeling tools to visualize what the exterior will look like with multiple finishes, paint colors and other features — but what happens when companies can’t match the pace of change? Customers decide on new windows, send off an email to their contractor but don’t get a response. Two days later, the windows company subcontracted by project managers shows up with the wrong materials, delaying the job and damaging the client/contractor relationship.
Another option? Design and visualization tools that let customers design — and redesign — projects until they get exactly what they’re looking for. With general contractors and suppliers using the same app, it’s easy for clients to share what they’ve designed and ensure everyone is on the same page. Homeowners get exactly what they want, while suppliers and contractors don’t waste time with materials that aren’t required.
The New Omnichannel Experience
Consumers expect omnichannel. From initial communication to ordering products, managing data and ensuring orders are on-time and accurate, the immediate response across physical and digital channels is now mandatory to build long-term client relationships.
The rise of e-commerce retailers, forward-thinking contractors and digitally-savvy homeowners has also brought the need for omnichannel customer experience to home remodeling and renovations. Mobile applications that empower accurate estimates, streamline data management and facilitate client-supplier-contractor communications now play a critical role in developing both physical and digital aspects of the omnichannel experience, in turn enhancing consumer trust and driving increased revenue.
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