By Kayla O'Brien
RISMEDIA, May 9, 2009-When it comes to buying and selling a home, value is everything. So what demonstrates value better than peace of mind for the home and wallet by offering home warranties to homeowners?
Known for providing coverage to homeowners when mechanical systems or appliances break down in the home, in real estate, a home warranty can mean a faster sale at a better price for home sellers. What’s more, a home warranty allows buyers to have more confidence in their purchase. Along with firming relationships between homeowners and their real estate agent, home warranties have become a saving grace for those looking to protect their financial well-being long after the real estate transaction. This is when the home warranty creates reliable, long-lasting relationships for all parties involved.
The first step to developing these trusting relationships is understanding the financial value a home warranty from HSA Home Warranty provides. Since 1984, HSA has not only provided top-quality products, but also service that exceeds expectations.
First and foremost, says John Sweeney, director of operations for Main Street Mechanical, an HSA Home Warranty vendor, if you have a major malfunction, your general cost will be far greater than if you have a home warranty contract. “I’ve had a customer get a brand-new air-conditioning system for about $200, and without a home warranty, the cost wouldn’t have been anywhere remotely near that,” he says.
The Perfect Partnership
Along with out-of-pocket savings, HSA home warranties come with a guarantee of good service, thanks to vendor relationships. HSA only works with qualified, prescreened contractors to offer service to their home warranty contract holders. Before recommending vendors to their customers, HSA screens them in one of three ways.
The first way, says Micheal Herman, senior vice president of operations at HSA, is an effort by HSA’s sales representatives who call local service companies to find the perfect fit. Next, says Herman, “We’re big believers in referrals from our real estate partners. If we can get the real estate agents helping in the recruitment, it tends to be a win-win, giving them a lot more comfort.”
“Our network becomes a point of differentiation,” says Gary Lombardo, executive vice president of sales and marketing at HSA. “Most real estate agents have a significant list of contractors they look to when there’s an issue from a buyer or seller, so we ask them to communicate who their trusted partners are.”
The third way HSA qualifies a potential vendor is by reviewing those service companies customers have chosen on their own. “Sometimes our contract holders have a claim and select a vendor themselves. Five percent of our claims come in that way, so we then see if they did a good job, have fair pricing, worked well with the warranty, etc.,” says Herman.
Once HSA has a potential vendor lined up, they do additional research to conclude the screening processes. “We perform background checks with the Better Business Bureau, conduct searches online and see if they have a strong reputation in the market,” says Herman. “We have a vendor packet that identifies all the elements in their firm-proof of insurance and licensing, a general profile, hours they have techs available, trucks, uniforms, etc. We want them to be polished and professional-to represent HSA in a positive and professional matter.”
When it comes to vendor relationships at HSA, they believe that the vendors have the ability to keep customers for life. Couple that with high service standards, and anyone associated with the consumer-whether it was the referring real estate agent or the contractor-can see that it makes for a perfect partnership.
“We have our vendors sign a service agreement with HSA, pledging to do certain things we’ve identified to be critical for a positive experience with an HSA client, from following procedures to communicating clearly with consumers, to billing protocol and responding to calls in a timely manner.”
For vendors, too, these relationships are undoubtedly a win-win. “We understand the important role that we play in this partnership. We’re not only servicing HSA’s customer, we’re also servicing the real estate agent’s client. It’s the real estate agent who referred their client to HSA, and it’s important that we deliver good service not only to make HSA look good, but to make the real estate agent look good in the eyes of the homeowner,” says Sweeney.
A Streamlined Process
When a homeowner makes a claim, HSA either sends the service vendor a dispatch or provides the homeowner with the vendor’s name and telephone number. The vendor then schedules the service and diagnoses the mechanical failure(s) at the home.
“We keep an inventory of parts on our service trucks, so most repairs can be done in a timely manner unless we have to order a special part,” says Richard Schoonmaker, owner of Colonial Air Duct & Chimney Services, an HSA vendor from Las Vegas, Nevada. “Once we advise with HSA, they authorize the repair, we complete it and get it up and running. It’s a very smooth operation.”
What’s more, “We get a brand-new customer every day and it doesn’t cost anything,” says Sweeney. “And in a very challenging marketplace, you’re trying to get yourself out there and compete with fifth-generation mom-and-pop companies, which can be an expensive endeavor. This relationship gives us the opportunity to grow the business while minimizing overhead.”
“HSA gives vendors referrals for work that they don’t even have to advertise for, building their customer base at no cost to them, at their convenience,” says Herman. “We make the process as smooth and seamless as humanly possible.”
The partnership ensures that home warranty customers receive the service they require to a degree that the customer will look to them in the future, whether they have a home warranty or not. “It’s increased exposure to the community that allows them not to have to worry about going to the Yellow Pages to drive business to them,” says Lombardo.
A Customer for Life
“As a contractor, I’m there in front of the customer,” says Schoonmaker. “My reputation is on the line as well, so after partnering with HSA, which has such an outstanding reputation, my customer base has definitely grown.”
“For HSA, if the customer has a good experience with the contractor, they’re much more likely to renew their contract. In essence, they’re our arms, and to the customer, they are HSA and the consumers judge us by the experience,” says Herman.
What’s more, Herman says that once they have a claim, it’s an opportunity for them to see the value of the product. “If we hit a homerun with the service, then clearly the chances of them renewing their contract is much greater than if we hadn’t.”
In the three years that Schoonmaker has been partnered with HSA, he says that the company has always gone above and beyond the call of duty to take care of homeowners. “I’ve worked with other [home warranty] companies, but HSA is best, simply because when we go out on calls and there are failures due to normal wear and tear, they take care of the homeowner,” he says. “From air conditioning in the summer to heating in the winter, they take care of business.
“For a small, relatively young company, I’m growing through them by proving that I can take care of their needs. We benefit from a steady cash flow while growing our business,” says Sweeney.
“Our success is tied to the ability to renew a customer by delivering a value proposition that a home warranty is a means to not only protect your budget but also bring convenience to homeownership,” says Lombardo. “You’ve got a trusted vendor network, only have to make one call and know that they’re professional, bonded, and insured-it truly does bring a great value to homeownership.”
For more information, visit www.onlinehsa.com.
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