Dealing with the unsatisfiable customer

By Michael J. Kruszynski, Risk Management Specialist
2-10 Home Buyers Warranty

Have you met the customer you just can’t satisfy? I have dealt with quite literally thousands of home buyers, and there are a handful that stand out for being either entirely unreasonable or falling into the class of “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.”

If I could write the chapter on customers to avoid in the Home Selling Rule Book, I would start that list with former builders from another market (state, region, country), attorneys (and yes, my best friend is an attorney), and anyone with an engineering degree–no matter what field.

In my early days in the industry, I was learning how to build homes under a great project manager. One day a buyer came out to the job site and called me over to tell me we were using sub-standard wood in his home. He then proceeded to point at knots in the studs and tell me he was an engineer. I attempted to argue the point that most studs were going to have some knots in the wood. I took him through other homes under construction, both from my company and a few competitors. He wasn’t buying it and kept telling me that he was an engineer and thus knew much more than I. Upon further questioning I discovered that he was a chemical engineer and didn’t know the first thing about home building. He continued to be a problem customer all the way through the warranty period.

How do you handle a customer that can’t be satisfied? Do you utilize a third party to help with disputes? Most third party warranty companies will offer some level of assistance in dealing with these kinds of customers.

In today’s world, with social media, the unhappy customer has the ability to reach thousands of people via blogs, Facebook and  LinkedIn. KB Home waged a war with a buyer that started a website called kbhomesucks.com. They went as far as offering to buy the home and website from him. Instead he chose to continue the battle and asked other buyers to post their stories. The question begs to be asked, could this have been avoided?

I still believe the root of the problem lies in the difference between the builder’s performance standards and the buyer’s expectations. Do you give your buyers a written performance guideline to help set expectations? Do those standard meet the NAHB standards?

You can never please everyone, but you can minimize the number of unsatisfiable customers.