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Friday, March 31, 2017

Homebuilders: Technology Can Help Address Labor Shortage Issues

We've suggested over the years that automated construction technology not only helps home builders build homes more efficiently, but gives them tools to build with more quality awareness, assess vendor performance and determine trends as they're happening instead of in the rear view mirror. Everyone is having to perform at a higher standard; technology can help you manage the increased workload when one of your inputs is under stress.

Put Technology to Work!
A recent Big Builder article by Don Neff titled Labor and Risk notes the last time labor shortages were as widespread as now was before 2001, and that ongoing shortages are especially challenging in some geographical areas such as Southern California.  Field Managers have had to take on additional tasks  particularly in the area of quality assurance  to get their homes built on time.

How can technology help you address this?  We suggest 3 significant ways:
  1. Add Quality Inspection Checklists: Select key, critical tasks (for example slab pour, frame complete, etc.) and associate a checklist to ensure quality meets your objectives.  You now have a consistent, measurable quality standard that keeps the schedule open until it is completed — including vendor payment. You catch issues early and can even add photos or drawings to the record.
  2. Utilize Automated Punch Tools: When rework is needed, either as a result of the Checklists or walk-thru, use your scheduling software to associate the punch item with a task and auto-email the vendor.  Take advantage of auto-reminders until the process is complete.  No more phone calls, unanswered emails or slipping through the cracks! Your vendors will appreciate this, as well. 
  3. Leverage Available Reporting: Automated scheduling reports provide you with not only the details of what happened but reasons for delays, vendor performance analysis tools and consistent problem identification. You'll know where to focus the most energy.
CPS has been providing construction scheduling software for almost 20 years. Let us show you how FieldCollaborate will help you build more efficiently and profitably!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Leverage Your Construction Scheduling Software to Manage Callbacks

No builder purposefully sets out to have call backs, punch items or warranty claims.  There are the added costs, time and dislocation associated with getting the job done right -- and issues can too easily be splashed across social media.
Build-in quality with scheduling tools!
Builder recently noted, With homeowner scrutiny on the rise, it's a good idea to take a second look at what can go wrong on a job. It's a chance to up your game.

Isn't it better to try to manage the issues before they're able to reach the status of a call back, punch item or warranty claim?

One quality management tool falls within the scope of today's automated construction scheduling software: associating Quality Inspection Checklists with key tasks.

How would that work? Select a key schedule task such as framing complete and develop a series of check points to measure satisfaction that the task is not only complete but meets the desired level of quality.

The task can't be considered complete for scheduling purposes, with an open Quality Inspection, and the vendor can't be paid, either. Both your field manager and vendor are on notice that items need to be addressed -- and they can be reminded on an ongoing basis, as well.

This type of process could be considered building-in quality.  Everyone involved in the job knows that there will be mini walkthru's throughout the job.  Issues can be caught at the key task inspections making resolution more timely as the vendor is available and hasn't yet been paid.  Not only are the issues better able to be resolved but the builder's reputation is enhanced as the buyer walk becomes focused on how the home operates vs. quality punch items.

CPS' FieldCollaborate offers Quality Inspection Checklists along with Punch Item Management as part of the construction scheduling software package.  And, there are Vendor and Buyer Portals, too! All focused on helping you build quality homes, on time!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Waiting in Line: Customer Perception is Everything

None of us likes waiting in line -- whether at the DMV, the market, amusement parks or sporting events.  And, today, long wait times can be splashed across social media at any time.  That's in addition to lost profits when the customer balks or reneges and leaves the point of sale location.

Customers Can Relax Knowing What is Happening!
Every retailer and entertainment venue constantly evaluates how to improve the customer experience -- and improved line (or queue) management provides an immediate and long-lasting impact.

That's because effective line management technology offers more than just a shorter wait experience. Automated line management provides at least 4 significant business benefits:
  1. Wait time tools provide control -- Long-standing studies indicate average wait times can be reduced 10-30% with line management technology.  Lots of "fewer than 10 items" customers today?  Using automated management tools, store management can quickly realign registers to better serve those customers while reducing the number of "full service" registers.
  2. Customers relax during the wait -- Customers are more quickly and accurately directed to an open location as compared to "manually" guessing which station is available or casually strolling towards a register.
  3. Customers appreciate the perception of fairness -- Two factors impact customer perceptions regarding lines: perceived wait time and the issue of fairness. Customers typically over-estimate the amount of wait time -- that's probably human nature. Providing an automated, call forward system not only efficiently directs customers to the next available register but encourages them to think the wait isn't as long as it actually is. Customers like knowing what is going on -- so seeing the next available register is beneficial even if it isn't their register!  And, people appreciate being treated fairly; an automated system is perceived as providing similar service to all.
  4. Expanded impulse purchase opportunities await -- Whether an automated system operates a single, serpentine line or multiple, register-specific lines, the opportunity exists for expanding impulse purchase opportunities.  First, the business is regulating how and where the waiting zones are located. And, customers are less stressed waiting so they're more likely to review offerings and make impulse purchases.  It's also possible to advertise and encourage such purchases through messaging on line management monitors. 
Interested in finding out how automated line management can improve your customer satisfaction levels and provide additional business benefits, too?  Talk to us about CPS QuikLine -- an automated line management system providing call-forward technology with easy-to-use management tools and straightforward hardware components.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Walkable Neighborhoods: Both Millennials & Boomers Love 'Em!

While traditional suburban communities continue to attract, urban environments are opening new home neighborhoods -- and attracting buyers! Both Millennials and Boomers are considering and buying in areas that previously wouldn't have offered new construction.

Use SalesTouch to Take a Virtual Walk About!
One of these neighborhood's key features (or, you could think, amenity) is walkability. There's even a new term: walkable urban places (sometimes referred to as WalkUps -- but completely different than multi-story buildings from the early-mid 1900's!!).

WalkUps are defined, in a June 2016 BuilderOnline article by Lauren Shanesy, as a development with substantially higher density, mixed-use product, emerging and new product types and a variety of transportation options.

Following are several marketing ideas you might consider using with a  WalkUp community: none are too complicated or expensive yet provide good touch points for your home shoppers:
  1. Highlight Transportation Options: Home shoppers in all demographics love the idea of reducing their reliance on a car. Residents in WalkUps spend less on transportation so why not highlight options for your home shoppers?  Provide maps, schedules -- even signage from your local metro.  While Millennials and Boomers are key demographics for the new urban community, reduced transportation costs appeal to moderate-income home shoppers, as well.
  2. Offer Walk Abouts: One of the reasons WalkUps are popular is easy access to convenient, interesting and unique shopping and dining venues.  Why not create an "It's in the Neighborhood" guide highlighting 15 close-by locations that are probably new to most of your home shoppers? Think: ethnic restaurants, unique bookshops, unusual hardware stores.  Let your potential buyers explore (literally or virtually) and see themselves living the experience! Drones are making aerial photos so much more affordable -- take a look at Richmond above and consider using this type of visual introduction to the neighborhood.
  3. Shine a Light on Educational Institutions: Washington, DC is considered the second highest ranked WalkUp and over 50% have B.A. degrees.  One of the urban neighborhood attributes frequently mentioned by Boomers is access to educational opportunities.  These don't have to be just colleges and universities. Consider adult education and interest-focused centers, too. Look for places like innovative yarn shops, photography studios, art centers.  Let your visitors know what's in the neighborhood with an easy-to-read map focused on neighborhood learning opportunities!
Go one step further and add an interactive touchscreen system to tell your WalkUp story. CPS' SalesTouch offers the aerial photo detailing shopping, dining, recreation and community options in Richmond (above); can't you see your buyers virtually exploring your neighborhood?

Thursday, March 16, 2017

More on Millennials & Housing: Location Valued Most

Have you seen the most recent Builder & Developer issue? Great article by Meyers Research: The Perennial Millennial!
Millennials value Location most - SalesTouch can tell your story!

As we've noted in earlier blogs: millennials will shape the housing market for years to come. This group may have delayed home buying beyond previous generations but...they're ready to buy!

Meyers suggests that we knew home buying was a priority but..55% want to purchase within the next 5 years!  An even more striking statistic: 25 million plan to purchase within the next 3 years!

There's frequently  debate regarding what is most valued by this demographic -- square footage, open floor plans, amenities, location .. the list goes on.  Meyers reports that location is first in their list of priorities -- followed by price and outdoor space.

How to tell a location story effectively in your sales offices?  We'd like to suggest SalesTouch -- CPS' interactive touchscreen system.  Present your surrounding area -- and let your home shopper determine what is most important.  Schools? Shopping/dining? Recreation? Or, just the variety of opportunities?

A Sales & Marketing Ideas article titled Engaging Today's Home Buyer with Technology that Works points out, "Regardless of age, geography or economic status, today's home buyer is empowered by an unprecedented level of access to choice and information. In other words, your home buyer operates with a belief that virtually anything they want is at their fingertips!" We can help tell your location story by touch!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Customer-Centric Retail Model is Key

Have you had a chance to check out the recent Retail Customer Experience article regarding the need to develop and sustain a customer-centric focus -- regardless of your industry?

CPS' Social Media Wall:
Engaging and understanding customers

Author Micah Friedman, with Cognizant, suggests developing new business and operating models to better deliver on customer needs and desires.

Businesses aren't silos any longer (if they ever were). Rental car companies, as an example, need to consider themselves as being in the transportation business and recognize the validity of competition from Uber, Lyft, SmartCar and others that aren't traditional rental car competitors.

What's critical, Friedman suggests, is considering multiple ways of engaging customers with a richer, customizable and frictionless experience.

One focus point is optimizing Social Media. Here's an opportunity to understand customers better (by evaluating their tweets and posts, for example) as well as providing a mechanism to shape how customers perceive them and their offerings.

Take at look at CPS' Social Media Wall in a new master plan community information center.  It's visually welcoming and designed to engage visitors from the moment they walk in -- delivering traditional marketing copy and community images side-by-side with consumer generated content.  Have a special event planned? Assign a unique hashtag, start posting information about the event and, at the event, ask attendees to submit pictures and comments.  Result: a shared,  creative process fostering an ongoing conversation!

Saturday, March 4, 2017

New Home Construction: Velocity and Profitability

Are you on the construction side of the new homes industry? Great recent Builderonline article by Mary Salmonsen; you can read it here.

Shifting focus to velocity can enhance profitability
Salmonsen highlights one of SAI Consulting Fletcher L. Groves' concerns: the under-consideration of project velocity in builders' business processes.

Or, to paraphrase a comment by John McManus mentioned in a previous Solutions blog: builders need to work with greater velocity or... learn the pain.

In other words, rather than putting a laser focus on individual lot margins, apply some of that attention, data collection and reporting to the amount of time required to build that home. That's cycle time.

Of course, cycle time doesn't live in a vacuum -- and can't be measured in the abstract, either.  Do you have a published schedule -- and do you track progress against it? Does everyone look to a specific schedule or do you have multiples floating within the company?  If there's one, not only can you measure cycle time but you're able to provide consistent, reliable schedules to your vendors.  They're able to better plan and their planning helps them become more consistent, efficient and profitable. That's a win/win!

Are you able to report on which vendors show up on time, or have the highest level of rework, consistently have safety issues, always fail field inspections? That information helps shape a long range vision of your construction cycle and helps deliver consistently better results.  And, it should be available relatively easily and consistently to be effective.

We'd like to suggest CPS'  FieldCollaborate as a software tool to help you develop consistent schedules and measurement tools.  You're able to quantify and measure quality items, delivery times, subcontractor consistency, safety assessments and punch items.  It all helps highlight factors impacting your construction cycle and allows you to be proactive about the next lot, phase and community -- and design for long-term profitability.