There has been a lot of recent discussion within the home inspection community about how to inspect safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. There is relatively little information about how to provide high-quality customer service at a time when our clients cannot or do not want to be at the inspection.
Regardless of your city or state’s public health safety guidelines, most inspectors will likely continue to see some degree of inspector–only inspections for at least the next several months until a vaccine is developed and widely distributed.
Even with this new reality, as you think about how to best serve your clients, there are many things you can do to keep your business running and your clients satisfied. I’d suggest that you not be the inspector who just emails the client a report and moves on. Remember that your client is paying you for a service that they didn’t see you perform. You need to make your value known.
Which brings to mind this question: If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? Or, a variation for home inspection: If a home inspector walks a roof, climbs an attic and crawls in a crawl space but the client isn’t there to see it, did it really happen?
Where does that leave us in inspector–only inspections?
- We need to create a personal connection with our client without in-person interactions.
- We need to provide value without having in-person conversations.
- We need to illustrate that we have been thorough and have our clients’ best interests at heart without them seeing us in action.
It has been my experience that a great way to solve these is by using video. In my inspector–only inspections, I provide the following three things, all of which have been well received by clients:
- A full video walk-through of the property
- Video narration of major defects
- An on-site video chat with the client (after I’ve completed the inspection, but am still on the property) to take them on a virtual walk-through, similar to what I would have done if they had attended the inspection in person.
Exceptional customer service is a key reason to provide these video options, but I also think that these video walk-throughs help protect my business. I believe it is crucial to go out of my way to show my clients that I’ve worked hard for them and to try to build a personal connection.
I lay the groundwork for sharing these videos with my clients as soon as I find out that they won’t be attending the inspection. I let them know that I will call them from the property after I complete the inspection and provide a video summary through FaceTime or Google Duo. This level of customer service not only differentiates me from other inspectors when a potential client is seeking to book an inspection but, more importantly, it shows my clients that I am willing to take extra time to help them better understand the big purchase they are about to make.
Here’s what I do for each of these types of videos:
Full video walk-through of the property: When clients receive the inspection report, they get embedded videos with a property walk-through. Since most homebuyers have been to the house only once and possibly for less than 30 minutes, the inspection traditionally is an important time for them to spend time at the property.
I record myself explaining in real time what I am viewing and why it might be a problem.
I provide them with video recordings that they can watch over and over again (and if you remember buying your first house, you know they will). I break the content down into one exterior video and one video for each interior floor. I try to keep each video under two minutes. In my experience, this has proven to be a huge added value for a client and it costs me, at most, 10 minutes of time.
It is possible that, in some cases, these videos might also help mitigate liability. For example, if a client calls me about a leak six months after the inspection, I can refer to the video and see that there was no sign of a water stain at the time of the inspection. Of course, I realize there is a risk that my video might show something that I should have reported on but omitted, but knowing that I strive to perform high-quality inspections that is a risk I’m willing to take.
Allows the client to have the opportunity to ask questions in real time while I am still at the house and can add context to the defects, similar to what I encourage during a traditional walk-through.
Video narration of major defects: The inspection report also includes narrated videos of significant findings like a failing foundation or aluminum wire. I record myself explaining in real time what I am viewing and why it might be a problem, and then I embed these videos into the report. This is also very helpful in case I can’t connect with the client for a video chat or don’t get good cell reception in a basement.
On-site video chat: I offer each of my clients the opportunity to do a live video chat while I am still at the property. First, I provide my standard expectation speech, explaining what is included and excluded from an inspection. Then, I provide a walk-through summary of the findings, where I toggle between talking face to face and showing the client any defects on screen. This is the most important component of “clientless” customer service, because it accomplishes three things:
- Illustrates that I am willing to take extra time to communicate with the client and educate them about the house.
- Allows the client to have the opportunity to ask questions in real time while I am still at the house and can add context to the defects, similar to what I encourage during a traditional walk-through.
- Provides a more personal connection so my client can see my smiling face and get some of the non-verbal cues that occur during in-person communication. This personal connection is crucial for clients to decide whether they like and trust me and whether I have their best interests in mind.
Yes, this three-step process takes extra time, but it is an investment in the success of my business that will take me well past the times we are living through now. My clients appreciate that they are able to explore their new home from a safe distance and receive the same level of service that they would during normal times. As for me, quickly adapting to this new era of inspecting has already resulted in a number of referrals and positive reviews, on which I can continue to build, regardless of the state of the pandemic situation.