By Paige Tepping
RISMEDIA, May 26, 2008-For more than 35 years, American Home Shield (AHS) has been providing home warranties to people across the country.
While owning a home has not changed much since the birth of AHS, homeowner demands upon service providers have become more complex and specific. AHS addresses continually changing customer needs by proactively offering customers opportunities to provide feedback. When appropriate, AHS takes the opportunity to implement suggestions into their home warranty offering.
“Crucial to our success is our ability to integrate customer feedback into our service,” says Dave Crawford, president of American Home Shield. “Innovation is a responsibility AHS has gladly accepted as a result of customers telling us they want more flexibility from their home warranty.
“Since our first day in business, innovation has been a value important to us as a company with goals of providing the most customizable product on the home warranty market,” according to Crawford. Proud of, but never content with, AHS’s ability to respond to customer feedback, he has visions of the company continuing to listen closely to customer feedback and determining appropriate responses to help reach those goals.
“Input from the end-user and our partners in the real estate industry will be instrumental in shaping the future of our industry,” he says.
Vice President of Operations Dave Quandt agrees, adding, “We actively seek opportunities to receive customer feedback and evaluate their responses. This provides us with invaluable information in planning for the future.”
AHS is one of the few home-warranty service providers operating exclusively in real estate, allowing the company to solely focus on the needs of its customers.
“We’re determined to become more flexible in our home warranty product offerings,” Quandt says.
The company considers exclusivity a major strength, believing it allows them to pay close attention to the real estate industry-which aids its efforts of delivering a useful product to real estate professionals and their clients.
“We want to give real estate agents a product they can confidently recommend to their clients,” says Lelia Chapman, vice president of real estate sales for AHS. “A large percentage of home warranty transactions occur during the purchase of a home,” she adds. “Fostering a mutually beneficial relationship with real estate professionals is crucial to our success.”
“On April 1, we launched our new AHS Home Warranty FlexPlan service nationwide,” says Crawford, “It implements some of the feedback we’ve received from our customers, providing flexibility to customers while improving and simplifying coverage options.”
American Home Shield’s FlexPlan was first introduced with a limited release in Texas in April 2007. The state served as a perfect testing ground for a product that had the potential to revolutionize the home warranty industry.
“FlexPlan introduces coverage options that will simplify our home warranty and make it more flexible for homeowners,” Crawford says. “We expect the new service to have a positive impact on the home warranty industry as a whole.”
Operationally, Quandt expects FlexPlan to have a positive impact on the company’s business practice. “AHS developed the new warranty contract to be more user-friendly,” says Quandt. “With easier-to-follow warranty contracts and flexible coverage packages, it should be more convenient than ever before for homeowners to select the coverage that’s right for them and to learn more about what their selected packages offer.”
The new warranty will allow homeowners to start with a basic coverage package addressing many of the frequently occurring breakdowns associated with major home systems like HVAC, plumbing and electrical as well as coverage for insufficiently maintained equipment.
In addition to the core coverage, homeowners can customize their warranty with a service package that covers service conditions like undetectable pre-existing conditions, permit violations, removal of defective equipment, improper installations, mismatched systems, and more.
American Home Shield also considered the interests of the real estate industry during the development of FlexPlan.
“Happier homeowners are more likely to provide real estate professionals with referral business, in addition to the potential benefit Realtors could see from the time saved after the sale,” Chapman adds, optimistic about the relationship agents and brokers will have with the warranty.
“Real estate agents may realize quicker sales and reduced downward negotiations because of FlexPlan’s comprehensive home warranty coverage,” she contends, adding, “By recommending it, real estate professionals provide their clients with home warranty coverage that is flexible enough to help address the needs and desires unique to their clients.”
The company believes a warranty influenced by customer and client feedback could greatly benefit agents and brokers. When creating the new warranty, AHS considered how they could best provide a potential risk management tool for buyers, as well as negotiation assistance for real estate professionals.
“Potential buyers can sometimes negotiate downward when their home inspection discovers old-but still working-systems in the home,” says Chapman. “We built FlexPlan to help address many of these possibilities. Our hope is that this will help real estate agents reduce downward negation and protect their business.”
While AHS service is changing, the company will continue to provide real estate brokers and agents supplemental marketing materials including listing postcards and door hangers.
A Vision for the Future
“We’re not going to stop with FlexPlan,” Crawford says about the company’s future. “We can only maintain our leadership in the industry by continuing to provide innovative home warranty coverage.”
For Quandt, he plans to continue identifying opportunities to use customer feedback in order to plan for the future.
Chapman and her team of account executives across the nation will continue to build and foster strong relationships with real estate professionals, always actively seeking feedback to help AHS remain the home-warranty service provider of choice for agents and brokers alike.
“The professionals who face home buyers are the lifeblood of American Home Shield,” Crawford says, “FlexPlan is just the beginning in the support and value we see our company providing to them.”
FlexPlan customers start with a core coverage plan, which addresses standard home warranty protections for covered breakdowns associated with HVAC systems, water heaters, electrical, ductwork, plumbing and more. This base coverage also covers items that break down due to insufficient maintenance, offering coverage previously not available to home warranty customers.
By adding the ServicePlus package, the homeowner receives coverage for items that fail due to things like undetectable pre-existing conditions, improper installations, repairs or modifications, and mismatched systems, among others.
The CoveragePlus package option extends coverage to specific items including ceiling fans, garage door openers, doorbells and central vacuums. Also, it extends Core Coverage Plan items that include geothermal and/or water source heat pump units, increased coverage of ductwork located in concrete, faucets, shower heads and arms and more.
The additional FlexPlan options that can be added are kitchen refrigerators with icemakers and dispensers, washers and dryers, freestanding icemakers, swimming pools and/or spa equipment, water softeners, well pumps and septic system pumping, and septic sewage ejector pumps.