July, 2003
Feature
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors



What's Your Exceptional Service?

ROB PATERKIEWICZ, CAE, IOM

As we progress in our branding efforts, an overwhelming amount of research and input points to the area of exceptional customer service as the key to a home inspector’s success, so long as it is partnered with a high level of technical knowledge about the inspection itself. I’m sure you can relate to these findings. I would hope that each of you has at least one company or service provider who exemplifies the best customer service in his or her work and knows his stuff, so to speak. It’s the reason you keep working with the company or person, and why you tell others about your positive experiences. Last month, I unveiled the key elements of what we are calling the “ASHI Experience”, the blending of technical knowledge and expertise of the ASHI Inspector, along with exceptional customer service and delivery skills. The ASHI Board has now approved the ASHI Experience as the working model of our Brand to be further refined, solidified and presented at the July
Board meeting for approval.

Often our focus is only on the technical aspects of performing the home inspection. Our research shows that all of our stakeholders (homebuyers, sellers, and real estate professionals) already expect a high level of technical expertise from the home inspector. The area of exceptional customer service, delivery and successful business operations is one that needs far greater focus and attention from all of us. Again, our research clearly shows that our stakeholders also desire these service features from their inspection experience.

In meetings over the past few months, we’ve begun to define specific elements of exceptional customer service. We’ve also made a conscious effort to identify aspects of customer service that may become part of the ASHI Experience. These include such elements as a professionally answered telephone by an individual who is trained and familiar with the entire inspection process who can guide the caller through what to expect on the inspection itself. This initial phone call and consultation should be used to set the expectations of the customer and to set the stage for a beneficial relationship between the inspector and the customer.

Important service elements we have considered for the on-site portion of the inspection include the inspector arriving in a clean, professional looking vehicle, looking clean and professional. The inspector should take great care when inspecting the home, demonstrating the utmost respect for personal property and causing minor disruption. Inspectors should treat homes as if they are invited guests, and should have a strict routine to follow when departing homes to ensure no unwanted surprises. We have also considered how inspectors explain to customers and all other participants the inspection and the standards to be followed, and make sure there is a clear understanding of the work to be performed prior to the customer signing the inspection agreement. Listening skills play a key role in this portion of the inspection as well.

After the inspection, preferred service attributes include a thorough explanation of the report in an understandable manner. Many of the homebuyers we surveyed indicated they wanted the inspector to avoid talking down to them, but also to not go over their heads with technical jargon and complicated. This service trait applies to the written report as well. The report should be well-organized and should clearly identify areas of serious, moderate and minor or cosmetic concern. In most cases, homebuyers prefer the report to be delivered on-site or soon afterwards. Timeliness of the report and flexibility in scheduling the inspection ranked very high among the stakeholders we surveyed as important service elements. Leave-behind identification cards for the current owners, follow-up “Thank You” notes to the customer, and efforts
to maintain an ongoing relationship after the inspection are also being considered as possible attributes of the ASHI Experience.

These are only a few of the countless features associated with exceptional service before, during and after the inspection. The individuals working on the ASHI Brand have identified many others that are under consideration. We’d love to hear from you about the exceptional service that you provide in your work as a professional ASHI Inspector. Send an email my way at robp@ashi.org or drop me a line here at Headquarters. I’ll do my best to share them in a future column and to pass them along to those working on the ASHI Brand.