York Brings Quality Control to Real Estate Industry

August 1, 1996

When Ed Willer, president of York Residential in Raleigh, N.C., signed up at North Carolina State University for workshops on quality control, he quickly realized he was the only real estate practitioner in the classes. Most of the other students came from manufacturing backgrounds.

Since quality systems designed for the assembly line don't necessarily fit the more subjective world of service companies, Willer developed his own program. "Just as a manufacturer's quality control system aims for zero defects, we aim for complete customer satisfaction," he says.

"In 1992 we did a benchmark survey of our buyers," says Willer. They gave the company a 75 percent satisfaction rating. "Then we followed up with a wider survey. For two years we canvassed all homebuyers in our county and asked them to rate various real estate services, from showing to closing," he explains.

Using information from the surveys, the company began to focus on boosting service. "We learned, for example, that we needed to improve service after closing. Now we focus on staying in touch with consumers," says Willer. So York sends out monthly "lightning rod" letters---complete with Willer's home phone number---to each buyer and seller the company has worked with.

"Most people won't complain unless you ask them to comment. That can hurt you, because consumers who won't tell you their complaints will tell others," Willer says. "But if you can resolve complaints, those consumers will be among your strongest boosters."

Willer benefits in other ways from his quality system: "We know more about salesperson performance; we monitor our allied vendors' performance; we reduce the chance of litigation; and we get more referrals. One salesperson has got more than 20 referrals from just one family.

"Since we started our program, we've gone from 75 percent to 96 percent in customer satisfaction."

Barlow Herget is a Raleigh, N.C.--based author who writes about real estate.

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