Trends in Home Warranties
n the following interview, Tim Haynes, president of American Home Shield® (AHS®), talks about meeting the unique needs of today’s consumer, improving the customer experience, and how one size does not fit all when it comes to home warranties.
Real Estate magazine: Please tell us a little bit about your history.
Tim Haynes: I first came to American Home Shield in 2012 from Nissan, where I led global IT teams. I started as vice president of IT at AHS, then moved over to lead ServiceMaster’s IT organization and strategy and returned in 2015 to take on my current role as president of the company. I’ve also held a general contractor’s license and built homes, which, as you can imagine, has served me well at American Home Shield.
RE: How is your non-traditional background helping to transform the warranty business?
TH: I’m a very hands-on person, and I like to know how things work from the inside out, whether it’s a house, an IT system, a company or anything in between. I enjoy digging into data, mapping out process improvements and using technology in new ways to do things smarter and better than before. I’m not really the kind of person who’s content with the status quo. I’m always looking ahead, and that’s what’s so great about working with the team at American Home Shield. We’re doing some exciting things, especially around improving the customer experience and expanding our service to homeowners.
When I think about the transformation that our own business is going through, I know we’re not just reshaping how we operate and what we offer to consumers; we’re also helping to change the landscape of the home warranty industry for the better.
RE: How does American Home Shield provide an even greater value to homeowners?
TH: Value is a broad term, and it means different things to different people. At American Home Shield, our value is based on many things, especially confidence, convenience and coverage.
Our customers have the confidence that comes with knowing that they’re working with the industry leader—one that has the expertise, the size and the scale that no other home warranty company can offer. They know we’re there for them 24/7/365 and that we have a network of more than 14,000 service contractors to serve our customers, and they have warranty coverage that provides them with valuable financial protection. In the past five years alone, we’ve paid more than $1.8 billion to repair and replace our customers’ covered items. Our coverage is designed to be used. And, when customers use their warranty, they renew at a higher rate than those who don’t, which we believe speaks to the value that we provide.
RE: You work with more than 175,000 agents. How (and why) have you realigned your team structure to be more flexible and responsive to unique needs?
TH: Just like a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work in today’s real estate market, it doesn’t work for us, either. The needs of buyers and sellers vary tremendously from market to market, and even among brokerages in the same community. That’s what led us to revamp how we serve the real estate community over the past couple of years.
We started by taking a hard look at where we were and listening to what agents and brokers said they needed from us. Among other things, we’ve invested in additional resources, bringing in a number of new and talented team members who are 100-percent focused on meeting the home warranty needs of our real estate clients. We’ve retooled our training program for our real estate sales team; we’ve introduced new portals for our contractors and real estate clients to make it easier to do business with us; and we’ve created better accountability to ensure we’re doing what it takes to earn—and keep—your business.
RE: How are you working to expand your service lines to meet the broader needs of homeowners and the real estate community?
TH: Owning a home is a lot more complicated and costly than it was a few years ago. Consumers’ expectations are shifting. Families are busier, and people are looking for ways to simplify their lives. With our national footprint, our expertise, and the capacity we have with our network of contractors, we believe we are uniquely positioned to serve a broad range of needs for today’s homeowners.
RE: How do you continue to improve your service experience?
TH: Everyone at the company has a responsibility to ensure that our customers receive great service. At the same time, we have a Process Improvement group that works full-time on initiatives that will make (and already are making) it easier to do business with us. We now have greater insights than ever before into virtually every area of our operation. This allows us to be laser-focused on where improvements are needed and to know exactly how we’re progressing against our goals.
Are we perfect? Unfortunately, no. But where we fall short, we’re working hard to get things right. Are we making improvements every day? Absolutely. Our renewal numbers are higher than ever. Our customer base is growing. We’re resolving service issues faster, and our customers are giving our contractors higher satisfaction scores than the year before. These are just a few highlights. There are some great things happening at American Home Shield.
RE: Can you talk about setting clear expectations regarding warranty coverage between agents and their clients? Why is this important?
TH: One of the best things that an agent can do to help their clients have a great experience when using their warranty is to include their primary email address and contact information on their contracts. This allows us to welcome them to American Home Shield, share details about their coverage and let them know how to request service or reach us if they have any questions. Given the number of providers and plans in the market, this is the best way to ensure clients have the most accurate, up-to-date information at their fingertips so that they know what to expect down the road when they need to use their home warranty.
RE: What is your team looking forward to as we make our way through 2018?
TH: We’re excited about the improvements underway across all areas of our business that will make it easier to do business with us, and help ensure that when our customers and clients call on us, we deliver a great customer experience. We’ve got a terrific team in place, and are looking forward to working with even more agents and brokers to protect their clients’ homes in 2018.