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Melinda Meskula
A quick guide to creating a better handover experience
There are some defining moments throughout all stages of a real estate customer journey that should be treated differently, with higher degree of importance and care.

Do you know how to identify these moments?

Buying a property is probably one of the most significant decisions we make in our lives. Investing in real estate can be a drawn-out process for investors and end-users alike, and in some cases – especially when purchased off-plan – the journey starts even earlier, way before the ground is broken.
During this lengthy journey – which might even take years before the final product is delivered – making your services better and your relationships stronger becomes all the more important. Naturally, some of your customer-facing employees form long-lasting relationships with your customers as they support them along the way, throughout the development of their new homes. These relationships will become explicitly important during certain key moments of the handover stage of a real estate journey.
There are some defining moments throughout all stages of the journey that should be treated differently, with higher degree of importance and care. So, how do we identify the moments that should require our extra attention?

Let's take about moments of truth (MOTs) first
By MOT-s we mean a set of interactions between a customer and an organization that define critical key moments throughout a customer journey. Why are these moments so important? Because they represent touchpoints when key events occur. Key events that will someday form your customer's opinion about your company or your brand. These interactions will have a significant influence on the entire customer journey and define your customer's impression and attitude towards your organization.

Have you heard about the good old peak-end rule? Let me explain – we tend to judge our experiences based on how we felt about them at their peak or in the very end, rather than judging them or basing our opinion on the overall experience. But why is this so important?

Of course, positive moments will leave lasting good impressions, but if something goes wrong, it automatically turns into a bad touchpoint and consequently a bad memory, damaging the relationships built and ruining all the good work you've delivered till date. In other words, these interactions will either make or break the relationship with your customers. And this is exactly why you'd want to nail that handover experience!

This should give you all the more reason to implement a forward-thinking approach, start planning and proactively identify these points in order to work towards tying them to delightful experiences, as customers will ultimately create memories based on the experience they received at the peak, or the very end of their journey.

So, first and foremost, we need to identify these key moments. There are different ways to determine these interactions in general –
  • 1
    You can either look for the weakest parts of your overall journey and implement changes to fix them. These changes may require adjustments to your processes, rearrangement of your teams or rebuilding the technology you are using.
  • 2
    You can also find the strongest moments, where your service really shines, and reinforce those practices or reuse them across other stages of your journey.

    But always ensure you build on the good practices or enhance the ones that require improvement.
What are these key moments in the real estate journey?
Focusing on the psychology of the aforementioned peak-end rule, we should be addressing the delivery process of the property during the handover stage.

Accordingly, our peak moment takes place when the customer sees the property for the very first time as part of the handover process and formulates and opinion about it – this is going to be the first moment of truth in our real-estate journey. The second key moment occurs when customers receive their keys to their new home - regardless of taking possession of it as a resident or seeing some return on the investment after many years of waiting.
Now let's analyze these key moments one by one, and see what you could do to provide a better experience to your customers –

Real Estate Handover Experience

Key moments
1 | Seeing the dream home for the first time
Customer handover is probably the most crucial element of the entire real estate journey and plays an extremely important role in the satisfaction of your customers. Creating defined processes and methodologies, providing trained manpower and the right technologies or tools to ensure an efficient and satisfactory handover is not an easy task. If the delivery goes wrong, you cannot just write an apology card or offer a discount on a potential next order. This otherwise thrilling moment of delivery can easily be destroyed by some unexpected defects in the property, so you better be prepared to welcome your customers and have a strategy in place that covers everything from the wording of your completion notifications to your employee trainings.

The handover process usually includes multiple customer visits and inspections. A home inspection is always recommended, and we encourage developers to proactively invite their customers for a home-orientation. Here's how to get ready for welcoming your customers to their new homes:
  • Transparency
    Complicated procedures, hidden and unexpected charges that are often unexplained or misunderstood. Some customers will not be familiar with certain procedures or technical definitions – so perhaps you should help them out a little.

    Prepare a manual that you share with your customers in advance to support and guide them through the process. In this guide, explain relevant terminologies and include a summary of fees they may expect along with their payment timelines. This is definitely something that your customer should plan with and prepare for, and you need to ensure they have all the relevant information in order to plan their finances.

    Make your customers feel involved by communicating with them, by explaining technical terminologies, educating them and managing their expectations about the upcoming processes.
  • Speak your customer's language
    Use professional communication in your manuals and templates but ensure that your wording is still easy to understand. Implement using well-crafted and appealing templates – in line with your company standards, of course - whenever you exchange any type of conversation with your customers. Always make the information easily available for your customers.
  • Quality assurance
    Your customer's mind is already occupied by thoughts revolving around mortgages, payments, or the cancellation of their previous rental contract. At the same time, their mind is filled with all that excitement around receiving their new home, mixed with a bit of worry about seeing the final product for the very first time.

    For quality assurance purposes, the best idea is to have your own independent professional who can inspect the fittings, the finishes, the condition and the quality of the product you're about to handover. Conducting an inspection by a third party who has a keen eye for detail is a crucial step in ensuring that you're delivering to your customers in the highest possible standards.

    Always welcome the idea if your customer wants to seek for additional unbiased professional advice in order to cultivate a sense of trust and ensure that your customer feels as comfortable as possible about the product you're handing over.
  • Seamless property inspection
    To ensure transparency and facilitate that trust, proactively guide your customers through the snagging process.

    Explain the purpose of the inspection, the process and the scope, including what to look for and what constitutes as a snag. Take time to pinpoint the positive aspects of the property and look out for their interest by creating a good impression of their new home, reinforcing their decision. Highlighting these positive attributes will stay with customers when they talk to others about the unit.
  • Time to go paperless
    In order to support international clients or those who would prefer to conduct their inspections remotely, implement digital tools – i.e. a snagging inspection tool. Digitalize procedures in order to make them simpler for your customers. A digital inspection tool may help you during your face-to-face interactions, too, as you'll need to ensure that your customer's remarks are recorded and valued.

    By taking pictures, marking those snags or taking note of their comments you can create a sense of immediate action and reassure your customers that their potential concerns are heard and addressed.
  • Standards, trainings
    In order to deliver a consistent service, write up standard operating procedures and train your frontline employees based on your best practices. The more precise and detailed your protocols are, the better.

    But don't just develop instructions and guidelines, go beyond the simple trainings on procedural standards and train them on how to handle these special moments and how to deal with different customers coming from different cultures, with different expectations.
  • The extra mile
    Don't just meet your customer's expectations, but always aim to exceed them.

    Many customers who take delivery of an international property often need to travel to inspect their homes and deal with the paperwork in person. Work on providing digital solutions that could make this process remotely available and easier for your customer, or alternatively, put together special travel packages or discounted deals to make their handover process less hassle free.

    Always keep in mind – what can you do to ensure that your customer has the best experience possible?
2 | Taking ownership of the new home
The new home is finally ready to be handed over and customers can finally receive the keys to their dream home. You have already nailed your inspection visits, let's keep up the good work and help your customers finally move in and start filling their new home with wonderful memories.
1. Documentation
This is where a lot of companies struggle to shift the focus from the business's point of view and put themselves in their customers' shoes.
Handover procedures can really cost a lot of time and energy. Getting through the final payments and documentation is probably the most tiring part of it all. This is where a lot of companies struggle to shift the focus from the business's point of view and put themselves in their customers' shoes. Rather than making things simpler for customers, most developers are just aiming to realize those final payments. Instead, you should be supporting your customers by saving the cramp in their hands from signing all the paperwork. Minimize the number of documents you ask them to sign and streamline the whole process to make it a little easier for them - compile all the required documents in advance and have them ready or uploaded to your customer portal for an easier access. If possible, digitalize the documentation process to allow the submission of forms through your online platforms. The same goes to your payments – instead of requiring multiple submissions, you could just outline all payments on your online platform and allow customers to make one transaction to save their time and energy spent on those back and forth visits to your customer care center.
2. Rituals
Rituals can give you the opportunity to continue the relationship with customers or start building new ones.
Do you want to nail that final moment? Elevate the key handover interaction and create a better experience by introducing rituals to strengthen the relationship between your brand, your employees and your customers. Simply by taking a picture with your customers to commemorate the physical key-handover moment in front of their new homes will bring pride, excitement and joy to the occasion. You could also arrange a handover celebration event in the community. Nothing gets your handover off on the right foot like a successful event where all the new owners are present. This can also give your handover team the opportunity to continue the relationship with their customers or start building new ones.
3. Going the extra mile
Aim to surprise customers with personalized gifts or a meaningful gesture.
Our company works according to the principle. Elevate the "end moment" and make your customers feel valued by surprising them with a welcome package. Aim to surprise your customers with personalized gifts or a meaningful gesture instead of giving them a generic welcome package, only for the sake of giving them something that makes them feel like they are just one of the many. To take it even one step further and give something on top of a personalized gift, introduce special discounts on services that could come in handy for a new-property owner such as special discounts on moving services or on landscaping.
Times have changed. In order to keep your customers loyal to your organization, you need to go above and beyond. Ensuring that every customer interaction goes as smoothly as possible and making your customers feel proud about their property purchase decision is not easy. But there are a number of tools and ideas you can always implement to provide the best possible experience. Relook at your customer journey, identify your key moments and evaluate the touchpoints where your services might require improvement. Plan these key moments strategically and always work towards making them better.
Don' just deliver a product, but always aim to deliver a good experience.