Bottom Line: Since customer has never been the king for the developers, they have failed to close doors on the market perception, finds Ravi Sinha.
This is especially true in the case of large developers operating in the metros. According to him, in smaller cities creating such a disconnect, or permitting it to happen, is not possible and also not feasible.
The best way to connect and stay connected with customers is to provide a seamless pre-and-post sales support environment. Buyers should not feel that they have been abandoned once they have signed on the dotted line – developers should keep in mind that a lot of future customer comes from referrals by existing customers.
Nikhil Hawelia, Managing Director of Hawelia Group candidly says that the time has come for two-pronged approach—one is for the developers to sit with the buyers in case of any confusion and the other is for the sector to get an industry status that will weed out the dubious players in the sector. He asserts that collectively these two measures will result in greater transparency in the functioning of the business and will help in growth of the sector.
“I had to deal with one such incident where the land acquisition has been an issue post the launch of the project. Realising the customers’ apprehensions, I offered to refund those buyers who wished so. As a result, most of the buyers were surprised with the offer and it gave them trust to stay on,” says Hawelia.
It is generally believed in the sector that the lingering mistrust between buyers and developers is the result of many things. Basically, the shenanigans of small fly-by-night operators and also crisis of some of the large developers who are seen as representing the entire industry have resulted in bad press for the entire developer community.
Certain developers do not get all the right permits for their projects, cut costs on construction or are not adequately funded and are therefore not able to complete their projects on time. When the media interprets such instances as indicative of a countrywide conspiracy against homebuyers, the effects can be anticipated.
Developers though agree in principle with the obvious benefits, they nevertheless are in the denial mode as far as direct interface with the homebuyers is concerned.
The fact remains that even though a lot of communication does happen before and at the time of a sale, it is often not the right kind of communication.
At times, the mismatch & mistrust is due to the developer’s fault, at others customers simply do not know what to ask even if they have doubts. And that demands better consumer connect for the benefit of the Indian real estate at large.
Manju Yagnik, Vice Chairperson, Nahar Group defends that scenario is changing fast and the real estate has undergone a massive change in last one decade. According to her, there has been greater transparency and considerable awareness among the homebuyers. Therefore, it cannot be agreed completely that consumer connect is a missing link. In fact, of late, social media and digital project promotions have effectively improved the consumers connect.
“Yes, we can say there is a slight gap that exists due to certain conditions such as perception and lack of understanding on various facts which are beyond the control of the developer. These conditions will include lack of necessary infrastructure, complex real estate regulations etc. Consumers are less aware of the formalities and rights involved while purchasing a property. But these flaws can be overcome by creating better awareness among consumers,” says yagnik.
Arvind Jain, Managing Director, Pride Group adds thatthe disconnect between developers and customers was a big problem in the past, but has decreased considerably.
“There are many reasons for this – one of them is that aspiring home buyers tend to do their homework nowadays. Thanks to the Internet, they have access to far more information than ever before. As a result, a developer’s track record and reliability is usually established even before interest in one of his projects is expressed,” says Jain.
While consumer connect might be evolving in the Indian real estate, it is yet way below the desired level. And since the developers are not connecting with the group that matters the most – homebuyers, they have failed to close doors on market perception.
The digital space, no doubt, is bridging the communication gap but then it is more in the nature of addressing what could snowball into avoidable controversy. The effort no way is in the nature of addressing the consumer touch points. Nor is there any desire for innovation to give the homebuyers an enhanced consumer experience.
With the advent of e-commerce space, there has been an increasing demand from the customers to have a virtual journey of the projects as it will save time and will be hassle-free.
The drones showing online the status of the project and the online help desk for queries is a must for all well known developers. Lucrative and feasible financial schemes for customers will also help in connecting with the customers and also zeal them for turning up. However, these are all wishful thinking in the Indian real estate.
In contrast, the consumer brands’ strategic approach towards reaching their clients is always focussed. In the current marketing scenario few of the well known consumer brands have very effectively managed the e-commerce platform and have engaged customers to strengthen the brand recall. The real estate sector is yet trying to smartly utilise this platform to reach their target audience.
Realities of connect & communicate
Growing consumer intelligence and activism forcing developers to connect with responsibility
Digital media helping buyers to vent out against the developer and mobilise the dissatisfied buyers
Developers are now collaborating with buyers for joint control of development to avoid litigations
Buyers as brand ambassadors can not only address complex issue of consumer connect but also help developer with word-of-mouth publicity