Why 1 of every 3 home buyers cries during the process

Philip Worland
April 16, 2020
min read
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Everyone knows that "customer experience" matters a lot. CX leaders outperformed CX laggards in the market by 300% over the last decade.

And the sheer volume of studies and think pieces with titles like “Customer Experience: The New Battleground for Business” leaves no doubt that CX is where it’s at.

So how is the residential real estate industry doing? Let’s go to the scoreboard – according to a 2018 Homes.com survey, 40% of Americans think purchasing a home is the MOST STRESSFUL event in modern life. Fully 1/3 of home buyers actually cried during the process.

I give that a grade of…not great. The question is why. Certainly part of the issue is lack of digital technology and engagement. Part is the scale of the purchase. Part might be everything around the house – insurance, financing, moving.

But when I look at the leaders in CX in the industry (and outside), I keep coming back to one theme – simplicity.

Dr. Barry Schwartz has written extensively about the “paradox of choice” and how the proliferation of choices in modern life drives decision paralysis, increased expectations, decision regret, and self-blame. Essentially, too many choices drive higher expectations drive less satisfaction. Which is the opposite of good CX.

Translated for business – MAKE IT SIMPLE. Siegel+Gale has a “simplicity index” to track which brands deliver the best, simplest experiences. I’ll let one of their (beautifully simple) graphics illustrate the impact of simplicity:

Yeah – people pay more, more often for simpler, easier experiences.

But don’t mistake a “simple” experience for something basic or lacking in depth. Their #1 brand for simplicity is Netflix. It’s because Netflix takes 10000+ shows and presents them not as a catalog, but in a carefully curated fashion (based on deep analytics) that constrains all those choices to things their subscriber is likely to personally want.

They orient on knowing their customer. And then Netflix does the work (not the customer) to cull down those choices and simplify the experience without eliminating the depth or breadth of the offering. That’s fueled explosive growth.

Even so, frustratingly endless Netflix scrolling is a meme. People can’t make a decision on a simple product (TV), that costs almost nothing, that’s personally tailored for their interests. Imagine the decision fatigue associated with a product that is complex and bought rarely.

Take life insurance. No one wants life insurance. It’s hyper complex. There are hundreds of providers. It’s expensive. It’s depressing to think about. But you need it.

Ethos Life is a great example of simplifying. They don’t showcase plans – the first thing you see on their website is a short quiz. It’s all about getting to know you, the customer, and tailoring a selection of plans to who you are and what you need.

Buying a new home is a little better than life insurance, but it’s suffering from massive complexity issues. Toll Brothers has ONE THOUSAND TWO HUNDRED home plans available on its website. And those are base plans, before additions, trims, and finishings. And the financing. And the insurance. And the maintenance.

No matter how good the marketing, how cool the home configurators, how slick the videos, the experience of buying a home is going to continue to suck until we figure out how to do the three things that HBR and the Corporate Executive Board lay out in their research on decision simplicity:

1. Make it easy for consumers to gather and understand information

2. Give them information they can trust and verify

3. Make it easy to weigh options and make decisions

Easier said than done. But there are some trailblazers to watch in residential real estate.

Opendoor and the other iBuyers are struggling with Covid-19, but the ethos is right – bring it together and make it simple. Sell your house with a click.

Homebound is using tech and a customer-centric approach to make the process of building a custom home easy. Literally infinite choices, but an inspiring, simple way to get started and move through the process.

I dare you to try their estimate tool and not get excited about your beautiful new home.

That’s the type of customer focused, transparent, easy experience we are committed to bringing home builders and developers. Deep focus on making it easy and simple for customers, building the operations needed to deliver that, and using digital tools to make it happen.

References and further reading

1 Simplicity Index – The World’s Simplest Brands
2 Harvard Business Review – To keep your customers, Keep it simple
3 Housingwire.com – Americans stay buying a home is most stressful event in modern life
4 Watermark Consulting – Customer Experience ROI Study

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Customer Experience
Philip Worland
April 16, 2020
min read

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