By Nick Caruso
RISMEDIA, August 8, 2011—As many consumers would likely agree, a good or bad customer experience can change everything. This is a reality that Illinois-based Home Warranty of America (HWA) not only takes to heart, but actively implements into its everyday business practices. With a consumer-oriented mindset at the forefront, the company prides itself on being the home warranty company that serves up the greatest customer experience possible—all day, every day. By staying in tune with the needs of those it serves, HWA maintains a firm grasp on the fact that a positive, service-driven customer experience can make a difference in the lives of all involved.
“We try to make the customer experience the best they could possibly have,” says Rob Sobel, COO of HWA. “There are many touches we have with the customer and we look at every touch, whether it’s by us or our vendor. Any one of them could make or break the customer experience.”
HWA’s philosophy focuses on two key components, says President and CEO Marc Roth. Roth reminds his employees that: 1) they should treat people the way they would want to be treated and 2) they should remind themselves that they’re the “hero” in the situation. At times when a consumer may be lacking control and finds him- or herself in a high-stress situation, Roth reminds his team that that’s exactly how their consumers are feeling.
“First and foremost, you have to remember what the customer is feeling and put yourself in their shoes,” he says. “If somebody’s calling you for assistance, our job is to find a way to help them get resolution in the nicest, fairest, most expeditious way possible.”
To help foster a strong relationship with its customers, HWA practices what they call their “Gotta Guy” philosophy. In the same regard as a friend recommending a trusted contractor or service provider, HWA wants its customers to have that same trust in them.
“Everybody wants to feel like they “Gotta Guy” for you. We want to be there for the customer. Whether it’s the vendor or us being responsive to them, it’s an opportunity for us to be the hero for them,” says Sobel.
Roth echoes similar feelings and wants to gain his customers’ trust: “I want the real estate professional to work with us and to want their customers to work with us because they trust us.”
So how exactly does one of the nation’s fastest growing home warranty companies train its team to share this similar ethic and become the “heroes” that HWA wants them to be? Although culture itself can be a challenge to train, Roth states that hiring employees with friendly personalities who have a natural knack for taking care of people is a great starting point.
In addition, the company looks for those who are computer literate and have the confidence to make decisions on the fly and help customers in any way possible. He tells them to “pretend that the customer calling is your best friend’s mom or dad,” encouraging his staff to maintain patience throughout and always have the end goal of satisfying their customers.
With staff on call 24/7 (the office only shuts down two days a year) and backup plans in place for any major inclement weather, HWA remains dedicated to consistently serving its customers. For 4-6 weeks, employees are trained on the company’s contracts, system and entire process. The trainers responsible are leaders of customer service teams on the floor, ensuring that new staffers really get a taste of what it’s like to experience an actual customer service call on the job. After the training period is completed, trainees are judged based on a checklist split into two different sections: technical facts and an objective courtesy assessment.
“If we take more time on the front end and help the customer service people get it, then not only can they do a better job, but they will also like their job and stay longer. Our objective is to get them to grow,” says Roth.
In addition to a team of service representatives, customers also have the option of using an automated customer service feature online to initiate a new claim, get vendor or contract information, create a login, and more. Users are then provided with a claim number and a detailed list of what the process will look like. Alerts are then emailed telling customers when they will hear from a vendor. All of this can be done in a matter of minutes.
“More and more of our customer base wants to do everything online. If they want to do something for themselves, we want to give them the ability to do that,” says Sobel.
HWA makes the process as quick, simple and efficient as possible for all of their clients, whether real estate professionals or consumers. “We don’t want anything to be complicated. Whenever we design something, we keep that in mind,” says Sobel.
The company continues keeping an eye on its business through the integration of customer feedback. According to Sobel, a survey is sent out on every claim, with scores being reported daily.
“We want to know how we’re doing, good, bad or otherwise. We go through the surveys to check comments, low scores, see if we missed anything, etc. We’re in constant improvement mode,” he says.
Survey questions prompt customers about three important factors: their service representatives, the vendors’ performance and the overall company. For all three sections, HWA also wants to know how likely its customers are to recommend them.
“I want to know that the customer is satisfied and if not, I want to know why,” says Roth. “I incentivize my people based on that result and their raises and bonuses are tied to that score.” The vendors’ likelihood of being selected again for future claims is also tied to the score, proving that HWA is one company that deeply cares about its performance and the satisfaction of those it serves.
Going forward, HWA plans on continuing to evaluate its process to ensure maximum efficiency at all times. The company will also continue driving its technology toward self-service, with future updates like Webchats and more sophisticated claims scheduling that will allow customers to see, in real time, exactly where their claim status stands.
Simplifying the lives of its customers and helping them immediately at a time when they need it the most remains HWA’s number one priority. With a consistent eye on representative training, the company hopes to continue excelling in helping those who need it and cultivating a positive service environment for its staff. According to Roth, all of these improvements and concerns will directly benefit their customers.
“The more people our staff helps, the better. That’s what makes us feel good at the end of the day.”
For more information visit www.hwahomewarranty.com.
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