Building relationships through e-marketing

Miller Homes is the UK’s largest privately owned house builder. In its 70-year history, it has sold more than 60,000 homes and firmly established itself as one of the top three house builders in Scotland and one of the top 15 in the UK.

“Customer care is the corner stone of this growth strategy,” says Hogg. In its customer care programme, launched in 2001, Miller Homes pledged to communicate effectively and deliver what it promised, 100 per cent of the time. Month on month, the company has seen a “massive” improvement in this area.

Since the start of 2003, Miller Homes has collected, on average, at least one award a month, with judges from a wide array of sectors recognising its achievements in everything from quality of building to marketing, and customer care to website development.

Miller Homes’ website was relaunched in spring 2002 and has gone on to account for more than 1064 house sales, valued at &£163m. As part of the relaunch, a registration and profiling system was added to the existing menu of online services. Since then, the website has developed a database of more than 23,000 registered active house hunters, with recent analysis suggesting that at least 30 per cent of total company sales are now coming from this source.

Through the service, house hunters are given the option to register their requirements on the company’s website. Once registered, customers receive an automated e-mail or SMS message when a home becomes available that exactly matches their criteria.

Results of a recent cost analysis of the service suggest that the marketing cost per sale to customers who have followed this route is less than &£260, compared with more than &£2,500 to buyers who respond to traditional advertising mechanics.

The website was significantly enhanced in February, with what Miller Homes claims to be a first in the British building industry: it has enabled all of its customers to monitor the build progress of their new home online. To date, almost 40 per cent of Miller Homes’ customers have registered for the service which is accessed through a dedicated website, mymillerhome.com.

After registering, customers are given access to their own secure area within the site. This is updated at every key stage of the build and buying process. They can also request text alerts or e-mails announcing key stages, such as roof or plaster completion.

All buyers are mailed with details of the service as soon as they reserve. After registering, they can log on at any time to check the build stage of their house or apartment. The website also details the next key stage of the buying process and the key tasks involved.

The site includes a glossary of terms and online assistance to answer any other queries relating to the entire buying process.

Hogg says: “My research into homebuyers has shown that they can feel very neglected once they have reserved their home, and that they appreciate any and all types of information we can provide which relate to the progress of the build. They plan their whole life around their moving date and need as much information as possible. We decided that we could provide this information via a secure personalised website. This is a genuine first for the house building industry – certainly in the UK, and maybe internationally.”

The site has been operational since February this year and reaction has been “extremely positive”. Hogg is researching 40 customers who are going through the housebuying process and is getting regular feedback from them about the new website and all matters relating to their house purchase.

As well as improving the customer experience, one of the other main reasons for launching the website was to generate positive word-of-mouth referrals from buyers. Hogg adds: “We know that anyone buying a new home is constantly talking about it to their friends and relatives. I want to use this opportunity for them to say positive things about Miller Homes, in order to boost our brand reputation.”

It is still early days for the website but Hogg says he already has many ideas for adding to it. “So far the feedback is very encouraging.”

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