Cross Country Home Services Provides Primer on Home Warranty Industry in New White Paper
Customers and market conditions drive home service companies to change business models
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (Aug. 6, 2012) — A newly released white paper published by Cross Country Home Services (CCHS) reveals that consumers and market conditions are driving the home warranty industry to launch new products, forge new partnerships and deliver unique value and superior customer service in order to compete in the industry. The paper, entitled "Savvy Home Service Companies Adapting to Meet New Consumer Needs," discusses how historically, home warranties have been providing protection for decades to real estate buyers and sellers, but more recently the service contract industry has been evolving to meet a changing customer profile and a growing customer demand – to make long-term home management easier.
The National Home Service Contract Association (NHSCA) recently released data that states in 2011, U.S. households purchased approximately three million home warranty plans. Despite their popularity, confusion exists regarding what home warranties cover and how they work. As one of the largest providers of home warranty products and maintenance plans — with a national network of over 40,000 qualified, independently-owned and operated service contractors — CCHS is helping shape this burgeoning industry by introducing innovative products and embracing a customer-centric business model. As CCHS President Sandra Finn explains, "We have the critical mass of customer data required to see how consumer needs are evolving and respond to those needs." Drawing on that data, the CCHS white paper covers the following topics:
- Fundamentals of home service contracts – In their essence, home service contracts mitigate expenses associated with the breakdown or replacement of major home systems and appliances, such as air conditioning and heating units, refrigerators or washer/dryers. According to a recent survey by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, 64 percent of Americans don't have enough cash on hand to handle a $1,000 emergency expense. For an annual cost that ranges from $350 to $600, home warranties can greatly diminish that expense, and homeowners can avoid the potentially crippling cost of a major system failure.
- Changing customer profile – The profile of the average home warranty customer has changed, driven in part by the consumer's desire to feel like they have more control in an increasingly complex world. Traditionally, home sellers bought home warranty plans to provide liability protection against after-sale repairs. Now, however, first-time home buyers embrace them because they take the guesswork out of who to call when a major home appliance or system breaks. Established homeowners, who now find it increasingly difficult to borrow against the appreciated value of their home, view them as a way to protect their savings. In the recovering housing market, warranties are quickly becoming an essential component for closing sales and assuring buyer comfort as evidenced by the National Association of REALTORS® statement that a home warranty is one of the top five incentives used by sellers.
- Impactful partnerships – Businesses that have a stake in home ownership and sales now also benefit from home warranties, which they bundle into existing offerings. Insurance companies can offer customers gap coverage for repairs not covered by homeowner insurance. Utility providers now have a way for homeowners to cover repairs for water, sewer, gas and electric lines. Mortgage companies minimize risk through home warranties and realtors recommend them to expedite client's sales.
- Challenges facing the industry – The internet has had a dramatic effect in enabling consumers to research and compare product purchases, but it has also created a challenging environment for consumers to sort out the good information from the bad. Public education is key for warranty companies, so that customers have access to better information on how service contracts work, what they cover and which products will best suit their needs.
- Future trends – All indicators point to the fact that the home warranty industry will continue to grow and adapt. The considerable customer experience data that CCHS has compiled allows them to create new products to meet evolving customer needs. For example, CCHS was the first company to offer home maintenance plans as both a stand-alone product or bundled with home service contracts—a great benefit for those unfamiliar with the regular maintenance needs of major home systems. The company also introduced the Home Protect home warranty to meet the needs of the growing foreclosure market; and they launched the Appliance Buyline program to offer their warranty customers access to purchasing new appliances at a heavily discounted price.
Customers that understand the ins-and-outs of home warranties benefit the most from these plans. That's why CCHS has prioritized customer education. In addition to this white paper, they maintain a company blog focused on home maintenance advice and an informative and interactive website. Their greatest investment, however, is in their human capital. They educate their customer service representatives who are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so that they, in turn, can provide helpful product recommendations to potential customers and quickly respond to existing customer's needs. In June 2012, CCHS received a Stevie® Award in the "Customer Service Department of the Year" category by the American Business Awards.
About Cross Country Home Services
Cross Country Home Services, Inc. (CCHS) is dedicated to making home management easy by offering a full selection of hassle-free, cost-effective home solutions, including warranty products and maintenance plans. Since 1978, the company has built a reputation for excellence and today is one of the nation's leading providers of these products and services. Consumers can buy home warranties and home maintenance plans directly from CCHS or through select affinity partners in mortgage, banking, insurance, real estate and utilities industries. Products include some of the industry's best known brands, including TotalProtect Home Warranty, Home Protect Warranty, Residential MD Home Warranty and HMS Home Warranty. The company's customer care staff is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and is dedicated to ensuring the highest level of service. Homeowner needs are quickly resolved through a national network of over 40,000 service providers, the largest in the industry. Headquartered in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., CCHS is a member of the Cross Country Group. To learn more about CCHS, please visit www.cchs.com.