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BPD Europe reinvents house-buying and its business with Salesforce
From books and beds to food and fashion, the Internet has transformed how we buy key household and personal items. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The internet is about to revolutionise how we make the purchase of a lifetime: a new home.
“It has become normal for people to make important purchases online – whether it’s a holiday or a new car.” said Erik van der Wal, Senior E-Business Manager at BPD Europe. “A home is probably the most significant purchase that anyone will make in their lifetime; the Internet can not only help remove stress from the buying process but also enrich it.”
By 2020, developer BPD predicts that 40-50% of its customers will be buying properties online. “Our role is to facilitate the online journey of the home buyer, so he or she can buy the home of their dreams as easily as possible,” said van der Wal. “People can now put a house or an apartment in an online shopping basket without ever stepping across the threshold or meeting a sales rep. We’ve broken the final ecommerce taboo.”
From indirect to direct omni-channel engagement with customers
BPD has a long track record in building new homes and communities across the Netherlands, Germany, and France. More than one million Europeans live in residential areas developed by the company. “We don't just develop properties; we develop neighbourhoods and public spaces that improve the quality of life for residents,” explained van der Wal. “To ensure we are building the properties and communities that people want and need, we take a customer-centric approach and encourage co-creation with prospective buyers.”
Co-creation focus groups are just one of the ways in which BPD now engages with its customers. “Digitalisation has disrupted our business and industry,” said van der Wal. “Customers expect a lot more information and to be able to self-serve.”
To meet these expectations, BPD connects with customers across a range of channels, including social media, web chat, email, and telephone. “Our only contact used to be via estate agents, but that approach has completely changed,” said van der Wal. “We’ve not only gone digital but we’ve become a lot more open – we let our customers decide when and how they want to contact us and they really appreciate it.”
Optimising conversion from a rapidly growing pool of multi-channel leads
More engagement channels means more sources for leads – all of which need to be tracked and nurtured to ensure the best conversion rates. “The team used to spend a lot of time creating emails – there were 20 touch points just to support the progression of one sale,” said van der Wal. “We wanted to increase efficiency while taking a more personalised approach when communicating with prospects.”
To optimise the sales cycle, BPD also needed to improve collaboration with its real estate agent partners. “There were a lot of leads left in the basement,” explained van der Wal. “During tough financial times, every lead matters. We needed to ensure prospects were being handled efficiently and effectively.”
A proven enablement platform for growth and innovation
The desire to improve lead generation and lead management prompted BPD to implement a formal CRM strategy. And that also meant implementing a CRM solution. “We needed a platform that could evolve with our business,” said van der Wal. “We could see a lot of opportunity with Salesforce.”
BPD’s journey began in 2010 with Sales Cloud and has since expanded to include Service Cloud, Marketing Cloud, and Community Cloud. Everything from construction project details and customer queries to house purchases and estate agency relationships are now managed via Salesforce. “We’ve moved on from just logging prospects and customers,” said van der Wal. “Salesforce has become an enabler for the future; an enabler for our growth.”
Better visibility of the overall pipeline and individual leads for Sales
The potential for such growth can now be tracked at a granular level thanks to better visibility of the sales pipeline, which can include more than 1,000 active opportunities at any one time. With the status and progress of each lead captured in Sales Cloud, managers can see what meetings have been arranged or how many prospects are approaching contract-signing stage.
BPD’s lead management process is underpinned by a series of workflows, which not only ensure an integrated approach but also generate a rich source of data that can be analysed to improve sales performance and establish customers’ property preferences. “With richer data, we can ensure we develop the right houses for the right customers,” said van der Wal.
Partner community boosts collaboration with estate agents
Kicking off a new era in building and selling houses online
For BPD, these process improvements were just the beginning; the next step on its digital journey resulted in a world first. BPD sold its first 10 homes online in 2016 as part of a pilot; and there are a lot more customers ready to follow in their footsteps. A survey revealed that 25% of prospects were interested in the online approach.
“Enabling customers to buy a house online isn’t just new for us; it’s new for the entire industry,” said van der Wal.
To take advantage of this revolutionary process, customers must first create a personal space where they can view and ‘like’ properties, configure their home, receive construction updates, and connect with neighbours. All these steps in the buying cycle are powered by Community Cloud, which BPD customised with help from Accenture. “Buying houses online is just the beginning,” said van der Wal. “With the Internet of Things, we’ll also be able to build smarter houses to help improve energy efficiency and safeguard the wellbeing of the inhabitants. With Salesforce, there are no roadblocks to innovation.”
Driving more personalised marketing and social engagement
To further simplify and enrich the buying process, BPD is transforming its approach to customer communications. As well as automating email updates, the marketing team will be expanding mobile and social engagement. “With Marketing Cloud, we can create different journeys for different stages of the buying cycle across different channels,” said van der Wal. “We’ve empowered every sales manager to initiate a journey within Salesforce, so they can take benefit of key customer moments.”
By embracing social listening, BPD hopes to be able to reach out to customers if they have a poor experience. “We want to be part of the conversation about our company,” explained van der Wal. “With Marketing Cloud, we will be able to respond quickly to negative and positive comments on key social networks.”
Automated service and centralised case management
With Service Cloud, BPD can respond quickly to customer questions that come in via email, internet or telephone. These questions used to be managed via email, meaning there was no central record. "With Service Cloud, we can see the number and variety of questions," said Van der Wal. "Every question submitted online leads to a case, which is then assigned to someone in the region."
Customer questions are answered within 36 hours on average. "We can now monitor the performance of our case management, and it is getting better," says Van der Wal. "By responding quickly to customers, we can avoid delays in the buying cycle.