K. Hovnanian Homes

Customer Service Training in Tough Times - a Winning Combination for K. Hovnanian Homes

These are challenging economic times and many organizations are searching for ways to cut costs.  Support services like training and development are often the first to go.  You would think that home builders, in particular, would eliminate all training given the state of the housing market. 

Well, that is what most homebuilders did earlier this year...but not K. Hovnanian. They recognized that training keeps their associates engaged, expands their knowledge and increases their productivity.  In fact, research shows that Fortune Magazine's “Most Admired Companies” actually increased their training during slowdowns because it allowed them to surpass the competition.

Company-wide Initiative Increases Customer Satisfaction
In 2005, K. Hovnanian began a company-wide training initiative to increase customer satisfaction by bringing in the MAGIC® of Customer Relations from Communico.  Supported by their CEO, this initiative showed associates in every department how to make a great impression on every contact...prospects, customers, trade partners and fellow employees.

Most importantly, the organization kept the focus on MAGIC service alive and continued to reinforce the principles on a regular basis.  And, they continued to train new associates throughout 2008, the toughest time their industry has faced in years.

K. Hovnanian Achieves Award-Winning Performance
Their commitment paid off.  K. Hovnanian won two prestigious awards:

  • The Virginia Division won a Silver National Housing Quality (NHQ) Award for their outstanding relationships with the trade partners

Many organizations look at their trade partners as just suppliers—people they hire to do the work (in this case, the trade partners build the homes and provide critical components to make each house a home). K. Hovnanian treats their partners like customers. According to NHQ judge Dan Green, “They have the most amazing trade partner relationships I've seen in all my years of judging the NHQ awards. The support, closeness and dedication of the relationship is unprecedented in my view.  It would be beneficial for other builders to replicate this.”

  • The Northern California division earned an Honorable Mention in the 2009 National Housing Awards for employee satisfaction

You'd expect a company faced with declining demand to miss the mark on employee satisfaction.  Not so. This K. Hovnanian division boasts what the judges called “superb HR processes and systems at all levels in the operation.”  That, coupled with strong marks in customer service, earned the division this prestigious award.

Despite cuts, employee development programs have not suffered.  The division lives and breathes customer satisfaction… and their training and performance management efforts reinforce the competencies and attitude needed to achieve their goals.  “Employees feel responsible for customer satisfaction,” the judges reported.


What's Next? And, What Can We Learn?

K. Hovnanian earned these awards through focus and commitment. And, I think they deserve one more—to be on Fortune Magazine's list of Most Admired Companies next year!

What else can we learn from this bold and clear-sighted homebuilder?  That now is the time to invest in customer service training. Sure, we're all faced with uncertainty and an ever-fluctuating market. But, can you think of a more important time for customer service training?  Now is when you need to invest in your associates to ensure that you keep your customers, build loyalty and gain a competitive edge when the economy recovers.
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