Not all homeowners are ready to make a purchase right now. And that’s OK. But you should understand the different behavior prospects show at each stage of the customer journey. This can be done by collecting data at key listening posts along the way.
This article overviews the customer journey in home services and shares research, stories and examples of listening posts service providers can measure. If you are a business owner or marketer who wishes to adapt your marketing to shifts in buyer behavior, please bookmark this page.
What is the customer journey in home services?
When consumers realize they have a need for a product or service they go through a series of events that result in a purchase. There are endless path combinations a customer can take on their journey. To simplify we have distilled it into 5 stages based on behavior:
What is a listening post?
A listening post is a point along a customer journey where companies can gather information and feedback about the behavior of their target customers.
On its own, one listening post can yield actionable insight about specific channels or platforms. When aggregated together, many listening posts can illustrate a much bigger picture. This kind of marketing research can lay the foundation for a customer-centric strategy.
Let’s walk through each stage of the customer journey and identify examples of listening posts you can use to gather insight about your audience.
Stage 1. Realization
This is the moment when customers recognize they have a problem to solve.
There are events in our everyday lives that can trigger a need to make a purchase. For example, I live in a log cabin and need to seal the exterior-facing wood every few years to protect against water damage and pests. This is a purchase that I know is coming, and can plan for it.
There are also unexpected events that can trigger a need. For instance, when my basement flooded because of a busted hot water heater, there was an important, and urgent, need to get it fixed.
In both cases, the first thing I did was go online to find a service provider to call and schedule an appointment. I’m not alone in this behavior. In a recent study on buyers of home services, nearly 60% went online when they first realized they needed a service provider.
Here are some key listening posts to leverage at the realization stage of the customer journey:
- Social Media — if you’ve taken the time to build an audience on social media, you have a valuable market feedback tool. If you don’t have the luxury of an engaged audience, you can run polls or surveys through paid campaigns targeted at your ideal customers.
- Search Engines — periodic keyword research will help marketers understand how ideal customers phrase their search queries. Understanding search intent for SEO will help guide your content creation efforts.
- Review Sites — read customer reviews from your customers, but also read reviews of other service providers. These insights will tell you the problems that were solved through their purchase, but will also show you how your customers talk about those problems.
Stage 2. Education
This is how customers gather the information they need to make a decision. This is especially important if it is a major purchase.
Using my log cabin example, when I searched for “how to seal my log home” I considered doing the work myself. I’m pretty handy. A company called Perma-Chink Systems kept popping up when I searched for those key words. They had some great content to help me understand what materials and tools I needed to use.
For the busted water heater example, there wasn’t much education. All I needed to know was which service providers are in my area, and when can I schedule an appointment.
Here are some key listening posts to leverage at the education stage of the customer journey:
- Company Blog — With an educational approach to content, you can monitor post performance by organic search sessions. The topics of top-performing posts can inform new content, or which posts to update more frequently.
- On-Site Search Queries — Users may not be ready to have a conversation, but they may use the search function on your blog or website to find the information they need to solve their problem. Looking at how users phrase certain search queries can help inform content strategy.
Stage 3. Evaluation
This is where consumers judge different contractors based on various criteria. For more transactional services it could be as simple as speed and cost. But for purchases needing more consideration, like home construction, our research shows consumers were more likely to use criteria like “examples of past performance” and “online ratings and reviews.”
Sealing my log home was too big of a job to take on myself. I needed to find a service provider. Since this was a pretty niche service, there were only a few companies fitting my top three criteria: past performance, cost, and service in my area.
For the busted hot water heater, my evaluation was simple. I wanted it fixed fast. I found a few companies in my online search. But it was a Sunday, and most of my calls went to voicemail. I finally got through to Culpeper Home Services who said they could be at my house within an hour.
These examples show the range of actions a buyer might take while evaluating various alternatives. Here are some key listening posts to leverage at this stage of the customer journey:
- Email inquiries — Email can be used to get a sense of the questions prospects seek to answer when they’re ready to have a conversation. Compiling email inquiries together and looking at common problems or the way prospects phrase their needs can be helpful in crafting marketing messages and content.
- Call recordings — Transcripts from call centers can yield useful insights to guide marketing strategy. Customers can also articulate things differently on the phone than they do in an email.
- Live chat or chatbots — If you have the content ready to answer key customer questions live as they are browsing your website, you’re more likely to establish trust and credibility. Customer messages can also be analyzed to inform new marketing tactics and strategies to test.
Stage 4. Decision
This is where customers decide with whom to work. This is the moment they sign a contract or agree to a scope of work.
For home service companies, the initial conversation with any prospective customer is critical. Depending on the industry, roughly one-third of home service buyers talked to only one service provider. A good first impression can go a long way.
Deciding on contractors for the two examples mentioned above was simple, but for different reasons. The company we selected to seal our log home was the only provider accepting projects. And the busted water heater was such an urgent priority that just being ready and on-call was what won my business.
Here are some key listening posts at the decision stage of the customer journey:
- CRM data — Look at the reasons you lost business. There are a number of factors that may impact why a customer chose one provider over another. Asking prospects why they decided to go with another provider, then analyzing the data, will show how your business can become more competitive.
- Customer questions — Customers tend to have many questions before and after deciding on a contractor. Home service providers can record the various questions customers ask at this stage. This information can help contractors address these questions for future customers before they are asked.
Stage 5. Advocacy
This is when customers feel compelled to leave a rating or review online, which can be powerful marketing assets. Our research showed nearly half of home services buyers left these testimonials. Service providers must coordinate with front line workers — technicians, installers, or other representatives — to ask customers for a rating or review. Then, digital channels like email can be used to follow up with customers.
I’ll be honest; I did not have a good experience with the contractor who sealed my home. An ambiguous project start date caused confusion, water pumps tapped my well, and stain was sloppily applied. Had this contractor done a better job, their company would be mentioned in this article.
Culpeper Home Services, however, did an outstanding job replacing my hot water heater. Hence the shout out and link back to their website.
Here are some sample listening posts at the advocacy stage of the customer journey:
Sample Listening Posts:
- Third-party review sites — What do customers say in the reviews after they’ve received your service? This information can be incredibly valuable to companies who want to improve customer satisfaction and extend the lifetime value of customers.
- Social media — Like review sites, do customers have positive or negative things to say about you on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram? Are they able to tag your profile on these platforms? Periodic branded searches on key social platforms can help you understand customer sentiment or if there is an issue needing to be addressed swiftly.
- Client surveys — Gauge the value of your services and customer feedback with periodic surveys to recent customers. Here you have control over what questions you ask, eliciting direct feedback. However, customers may need incentive to take a survey.
When mapped and analyzed properly, these touchpoints offer insight into each stage of the customer journey. Understanding this journey will show where your home services company needs to evolve.