• Needed to give customers as much
detail as possible about the lot,
house, and options
• Needed to be able to engage
• Weekly plat updates took at least
half a day
These are good times for Steve Dunn and his team at Indianapolis-based Westport Homes. The company closed 672 houses in 2016, up nearly 20% on the previous year, while total revenues in 2016 reached $151 million, a 25% increase.
Founded in 2003, the company today operates branches in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, and Columbus, Ohio, in addition to its Indianapolis headquarters. Chris Dunn, operations manager, says Westport is on track to keep the growth curve pointing in the right direction in 2017, with every expectation of breaking the 800-close mark.
There are several factors driving Westport’s recent growth surge, Dunn explains. These factors include an aggressive land-acquisition effort as the company focuses attention on developing its own master plan communities with 200 to 300 lots; the ability to provide high quality, affordable housing to a wide-ranging demographic—from first-time buyers to empty nesters looking to downsize; and a family based business culture that emphasizes customer care.
Also, key to the company’s recent success: a willingness to embrace technology and use it to maximize internal productivity and efficiency, and to deliver a superior customer experience from the initial point of contact all the way through to closing and delivery.
Case in point: Westport’s use of the LotVue™ suite of visual display apps.
Westport has been using LotVue since November 2016 and, Dunn reports, it has not only helped boost productivity and freed up valuable time for employees internally, but the program has made it possible to engage with customers far more effectively, both online and on site.
The construction industry in general, Dunn notes with a wry smile, is not always quick to embrace new technology. The initial response from the sales team when Westport rolled out LotVue was guarded at best.
“Our people looked at it and all they saw at first was just one more thing to keep track of,” Dunn says candidly. It didn’t take long, though, for attitudes to change dramatically.
“Once they recognized the potential LotVue offered and the way our customers were responding to it, our sales team soon got a lot more enthusiastic,” says Dunn. “Today, our salespeople are big LotVue fans,” he reports.
“They really like the way prospects come in today who are informed and at least partially pre-sold thanks to LotVue,” he continues. “Those prospects have already seen the house online and, with LotVue, we are able to give them far more detail than we ever were before. Our prospects know the lot they want and the lot premium associated with it and they know the house model and the options it comes with.”
LotVue has given the Westport team a whole new way to engage with prospects, says Dunn. “The internet has become an important resource for home buyers when they’re researching what’s available and it’s only going to become more important in the future,” he contends. “LotVue provides us with a way to keep people on our website longer and more engaged. It’s definitely giving us an advantage over other builders in the market whose idea of visual display is not much more than just an overlay on a Google map.”
LotVue has also proven to be a valuable resource for Westport from a branding perspective, says Dunn. It positions the company as a forward-looking, innovative user of technology and is playing an important role in enhancing the customer experience at the company’s model homes.
“We’ve spent a lot of time recently working on re-branding our model homes and creating a consistent look and a clean presentation,” Dunn explains. “Part of that effort has involved running LotVue on big video displays in our models and that makes telling our story so much easier and more professional. If a potential customer walks in and finds our salesperson already working with a prospect, they now have access to a great interactive tool they can use to learn more about what’s available and get some of their questions answered ahead of time while they’re waiting for the salesperson.”
LotVue is not only helping to take marketing to the next level at Westport Homes, says Dunn. It’s also making life easier and more productive for the company’s marketing team.
“Before we implemented LotVue, our marketing people would create a PDF of the plat indicating the status of the various lots that would be posted to the Westport website and updated weekly,” he recalls. Making those updates, Dunn points out, was a manual process that was both time-consuming and rich in potential for human error.
Switching to LotVue for plat updates is not only saving Westport’s marketing department as much as a half-day a week during peak selling season, Dunn estimates, but it’s also giving everyone in the company far more confidence that the information being posted is actually accurate and up to date.
In many ways, these are still early days for Westport Homes and its use of LotVue. The LotBuzz™ app, the marketing side of the program, has been getting most of the attention. While almost everyone at Westport has access to LotInsight™—the back office module that provides quick visual insights into land development, lot inventory, sales status, construction progress and more—the company is only now starting to put it to work in any significant way.
But, says Dunn, he fully expects LotVue to become even more important for Westport going forward.
“Home buyers today are hungry for information,” he points out. “They’re using the internet more and more to do their research before they go anywhere and we have to be there for them and offering a superior online experience. LotVue represents a powerful resource to help us do that. It’s giving us a valuable advantage over our competition today but eventually—and sooner rather than later—the quality of customer interaction that LotVue enables us to provide will become essential in the market of tomorrow.”