This week on The Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast, Brenda Keo of Utility Connect joins Greg and Kevin to discuss how home builders can elevate their customer experience by connecting home buyers to relocation services throughout their whole journey.
The most important thing a home builder can relay to a customer is that they will be taken care of throughout the entire home buying process and beyond. Brenda says, “…I think just building that relationship at the very beginning and letting them know that I've got you from the foundation all the way into the door type of service. Right? It's a stressful beginning, it's a stressful journey. But letting them know that you've got them from beginning to end until they move into their home, even after they're in their home.”
Many valuable resources can help home builders communicate that message to their home buyers. Brenda explains, “…there are resources out there, take advantage of them. There's just so much I think that we just don't know that is out there. I feel like you're presented with so many options nowadays and everything takes time. Everything takes a lot of time. And so, I'm in the mindset of getting time back. I've got eight hours of work. I've got 12 hours of free time, whatever it is, and so if there's anything that you could actually spend time to yourself and get that back, use these resources.”
Services that improve customer experience will also elevate a home builder’s brand. Brenda says, “So, that's why I think home builders really have a great way to build a relationship with their clients because they can really use our services to stay in touch with them, even after they move in. That way they can have that home buyer just be, Hey, like I worked with this home builder. They've literally made it a breeze for me from the moment I met with them to picking the house, to building it, to getting in.”
Listen to this week’s episode to learn more about how moving services can help connect home builders to customers.
About the Guest:
As the National Account Manager at Utility Connect, Brenda oversees all accounts, delivers exceptional service, and fosters strong relationships with our partners. Leveraging her organizational skills from her medical field background, she ensures seamless onboarding and utmost client satisfaction for Utility Connect’s partners. After onboarding each account, Brenda offers comprehensive training and actively shares the company's best practices and industry knowledge. Feel free to connect with Brenda for any inquiries or to discuss further information about Utility Connect’s services. She is always delighted to assist and provide the support you need!
Greg Bray: [00:00:00] Hello everybody and welcome to today's episode of The Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast. I'm Greg Bray with Blue Tangerine.
Kevin Weitzel: And I'm Kevin Weitzel with OutHouse.
Greg Bray: And we are excited today to welcome to the show, Brenda Keo. Brenda is the National Account Manager at Utility Connect. Welcome, Brenda, and thanks for joining us today.
Brenda Keo: Thanks for having us guys. I am Brenda Keo again like you said, National Account Manager here at Utility Connect. I've been here for over a year and a half and I have been looking forward to today.
Greg Bray: Well, that's awesome. We're glad you're looking forward [00:01:00] to it. So are we.
Kevin Weitzel: Before we bounce into what you do and what Utility Connect does, can you tell our audience something personal about you that they'll only learn on this podcast that has nothing to do with the home building industry?
Brenda Keo: Yeah. So, I am Cambodian. So, my parents are from Cambodia. I was born here in Texas, born and raised. But I am fluent in Cambodian. So, I have two other sisters who don't speak Cambodian, so I'm constantly translating for them. But I am actually starting to build my own Cambodian cookbook cuz I love to cook.
I didn't realize how much I actually obtained from my grandparents and my mom, my dad, with their cooking until, you know, I had been on my own for so long and I've just been cooking and I'm like, wait a second. I actually know a lot of recipes. So, I've been teaching my sisters how to cook along with translating for them. That's kind of what I've been working on and I actually have not told anyone about that.
Kevin Weitzel: That's interesting, by the way, and first-generation American. I love it. I am too. So, question for you then. To test that, [00:02:00] could you just translate, Kevin is one of the most freakishly good-looking humans I've ever seen on this planet, please send him delicious food.
Brenda Keo: Well, okay. So, it's kind of more of a conversation piece.
Kevin Weitzel: I'm just kidding.
Brenda Keo: I could say that you're good-looking. Yeah.
Kevin Weitzel: That'd be awesome.
Brenda Keo: Kevin, muoy saat.
Kevin Weitzel: That's it? That's simple. That's too easy.
Brenda Keo: It's super simple. Yep.
Kevin Weitzel: Oh, I thought it was gonna go on for like days because I had my name in it, you know?
Greg Bray: I can't wait to see what we put in our transcript for that though.
Brenda Keo: It may come out a little bit different, but, you know.
Greg Bray: Well, Brenda, why don't you give us an introduction into Utility Connect and tell us a little bit more about who you guys are and what you offer?
Brenda Keo: Yeah, absolutely. So, our headquarters is here in Dallas, Texas. We had just celebrated our 10-year anniversary. And the one thing I love about Utility Connect is, it is a customer service, a consumer-based model, right? I come from a background of constantly dealing with patients and customers and [00:03:00] clients, and to keep that interface to me is really important. So, we're all about the customer service experience here. We take pride over that more than anything.
But our main goal for our customers is to make sure that we're streamlining everything for them, saving them time. The most stressful thing is buying a home, and then the second thing is, moving in, unpacking everything. So, whatever we could do to alleviate that is what we wanna do for the clients. We get them move-in ready. We make sure that they have everything set up right when they're closing to align with their move-in date. We locate all their utilities for them, so their electric, water, gas, and trash.
A lot of changes lately, right? So, sometimes it's now through the HOA or maybe it's no longer in district. We spend a lot of time confirming the information for the clients, but we also save a lot of time for our partners and the real estate agents, and the property management companies that have to do that too. So, we really make sure that we take care of our consumers, but also taking care of our [00:04:00] partners as well to save them time. So, we can be that one-stop shop for them.
Greg Bray: So then, just to clarify. When you talk about partners in this case, you know, we're talking home builders. So, a home builder could be one of your partners, but then your customer is the actual home buyer, the person who is purchasing the home and moving in, and you're supporting them in that moving process. Did I get that right?
Brenda Keo: Yes, sir, you did. The customers are gonna be, you know, the home buyers or anyone renting a home. But also, you know, we deal with a lot of repeat clients as well. So, those who have moved in a few years ago and now, you know, maybe they're empty nesters and they're ready to change their service plans.
That's the thing with builders is that we see a lot of repeat clients for them cuz they're in that home for the next 5, 10, 15, 20 years. And of course, a lot of their services are always needing to be renewed or, you know, a new service here or there. So, we continue to stay on with that journey for the home buyer or the renters as well as they're moving from home to home.
Greg Bray: So, I think when you think about the [00:05:00] number of services that a homeowner has to deal with today, I don't know my perspective, it's grown a lot over the last decade, as far as the different things that we have. But give us that general idea, how many different services does somebody have to deal with when they're moving and setting up in a new home?
Brenda Keo: Oh gosh. Just to talk about utilities, that's already four, right? Your electric, water, gas, and trash. You need information. Then nowadays you have to have internet, right? You need to have your wifi to connect to your smart thermostat. You wanna make sure you've got home protection. So, that security right there. So, we're talking about tv, you know, we're talking about your internet, your phone services. Now you have to worry about home warranty, making sure you have that. Home or renter's insurance. Mail forwarding. The list just kind of goes on, and that's just to get you into the home, right?
And then there's also maintenance work after the home as well. So, it's a handful. If you're doing this all in one day, good luck to you because the elevator music, being put on hold, and [00:06:00] transfer and all of that. You know, it's an average of four to six hours that you're spending just trying to find out who the providers are, but then also getting these services signed up.
So, a lot of our clients, we save them a couple of days because they don't have time to spend four to six hours to figure all this out. So, I would probably say 10 or plus services that you are looking for that you don't even think you need until you get into the home and you're like, oh crap. I do need to get internet. I didn't forward my mail. It's still going to my old address. So, it's a lot to think about.
Kevin Weitzel: Now, does Utility Connect have any kind of back portal access that the average individual homeowner doesn't have? Can you go on and literally just streamline somebody into gas XYZ company and input all their information, get their billing started, or is that not part of that service?
Brenda Keo: We are authorized dealers when it comes to all of the home services. So, we've got direct access to the portal, meaning we search all the available providers for them. We'll select the services and schedule the installation dates. When it comes to utilities, that's a little [00:07:00] bit tricky. So, we follow all of the state-to-state regulations. Typically, anywhere in the US heavily regulated, they do require to speak to the homeowners directly to get those services set up, you know, acquiring the 12, 24 months of a payment.
We do the legwork of making sure that we research who their available providers are for their electric, water, gas, and trash. And then we'll be able to send that information over to the clients, to the home buyers, once we verify who those providers are. But then we also ask them, okay, what's gonna be the easiest way for Kevin to sign up for his gas? If it's an online, we wanna make sure that we have the link. Or if you have to go in person and it's old school, which we come across a lot of those, we wanna get the form from them. That way we can attach it in the email, so you have the contact information and the form as well.
You know, if there's any residents here in Texas, we're a little bit different here. So, we can actually set up new services for electricity because we're deregulated. So, we actually do a really great job of [00:08:00] educating them, letting them know the prices and the rates. They may say it's free nights and weekends, but let me tell you that a fine print in there, will get you. So, we try to do our best to make sure that the home buyers know exactly what they're getting. If we can't get them connected, we always make sure they have all the resources they need for it.
Greg Bray: So, Brenda, it sounds like you guys are servicing people over the country. You're not restricted to a particular area. Is that correct?
Brenda Keo: Correct. Yes sir. Yep. We are nationwide.
Greg Bray: So, one of the interesting challenges that new construction has compared to a resale, or sometimes we say a used home, is that there are new communities with new addresses that may not be fully set up in some of these systems. Talk a little bit about how you guys help with that piece of the process and making that work, which the buyer may not even be able to figure out at all how to navigate.
Brenda Keo: Ah Greg, that's my favorite question. Because we do deal a lot of that with our new [00:09:00] builds, right? So what you're asking is, all right, so what happens if that address is not quite registered yet within the USPS, right? So, that's another headache for the home buyer to even figure out, right? They don't even know who to call or where to start because the address is not registered. So, we can actually help and expedite that address being registered a lot faster.
We've got some magic on the back end that we can speed up the process or we can start to see their surrounding areas. That way we can really help them zone in on their providers and then we will just do our work and just keep checking in. But for the most part, we're very familiar with new builds and we do a really great job in making sure that their address gets added to the USPS, so then we can start providing them who their providers are and then the utility services.
And a lot of times we see, you know, if the meter's not there yet, so then the home buyer doesn't know, okay, well what do I do for my gas or all that. So, we'll let them know, okay, once the meter's there, let us know, and then we'll walk you through, you know, what the company said. So, we kind of have a process when it comes to [00:10:00] new builds.
Greg Bray: That's great. So, let's pivot just a little bit, Brenda. We've talked a lot about the home buyer. Let's talk about the home builder and some of the benefits or opportunities that come with partnering with you guys to do this. Talk a little bit about why a builder should care. It's like, well, I put this list on my website of all the people you need to call. So, isn't that good enough?
Brenda Keo: Yeah. So, I think builders have more of a leg up when it comes to partners with us because we work with all verticals. Anyone in the real estate world, property management, mortgage companies, anyone has that audience of home buyers and renters.
But with builders, I feel like there's more of a connection, a relationship that they can continue on with the home buyers even after the move-in. It's kind of like an all-around package. We're customizing homes and we're putting in these farmhouse sinks and these smart home thermostats. The concierge service at the end is like the cherry on top because it's continuous service for them.
Whenever their home security needs to be [00:11:00] renewed in five years, they don't have to search around. They can just give us a callback or we'll follow up with them, and then we make sure, hey Greg, it looks like your service needs to be renewed. Do you wanna go and price shop a little bit more? Are you interested in renewing? So, a lot of home builders will retain that customer for life because they're in that home for a lot longer, right? It also builds them value.
It really does look like wow, Kevin's home building company is still keeping in touch with me, even though we bought the home and built it five years ago. Here he is again, you know, their company is still touching up with us, making sure we're taken care of. So, it's like their own personal concierge service. So, a lot of builders will use that to keep that relationship there, build that customer for life. That's how they get a lot of referrals, or if someone's kind of moving outta state. Typically, a lot of our builders have a little bit more presence, or if they're moving across the street for like referrals or anything, we get a lot of referrals from their clients as well. So, just repeat business for builders, which I think is a huge thing for them.
Greg Bray: Tell us a little bit more then about how [00:12:00] that brand experience between you and the partner or the home builder works. When you talk about following up five years later about, you know, security system renewal. Are you calling as Utility Connect or are you calling as Kevin's home building company? How does that interaction look to the home buyer?
Brenda Keo: Yeah. So, it really is up to our partners on how they wanna utilize our services. We have a full branding to where we can say, Hey, this is Brenda calling from Utility Connect. We are your concierge service. Or we can say, Hey, this is Brenda with Utility Connect. We are a partner with Kevin's home building company, reaching back out. So, we give our partners the option to brand out with us, to co-brand, or to keep us as a third party. That's how we keep that relationship with the client.
So, when we send them these detailed synopsis of all of their account information, your company information is in front of the clients. So, we wanna make it to where this is coming truly from Kevin's home company, however, you wanna position it. But a lot of our home [00:13:00] builders will definitely wanna keep their brand in front of their consumers, so more than likely, we'll always say, Hey, this is Brenda calling from Kevin's home company.
And then when we're sending the email, it's all of Kevin's home company's information at the bottom of that email too. So, it redirects the consumer back to him, knowing that it's coming from his company, and that if they need to contact him for any reason they have his website, his social links, and his contact information.
Greg Bray: So, it sounds like there's a real opportunity then for builders to have someone else manage that, but still get the credit, if you will, with the home buyer of saying, oh, wow, I haven't talked to anybody from Kevin's home building company for a while, and here they are reaching out a few years later to help me renew things and such. What type of revenue opportunity does that present for the builder? Is this something that they're paying you to do? Or how does that kind of work financially for them?
Brenda Keo: Well, there is a pretty hefty cost for builders to use us. It is completely free. It's a free service.
Greg Bray: Alright, now hang on, [00:14:00] Brenda. Nobody's gonna believe that. So, you're gonna have to unpack that little bit more.
Brenda Keo: We're a complimentary concierge service, so this is a free partnership for our builders, and this is also free for our consumers too. We really wanna make sure that we provide that customer service experience, streamline everything, so there are no fees for our partners or for our consumers. And I know it's hard to take that in, but that's why we're a concierge service, right? Being able to kind of offer everything for the partners and clients.
Then we actually pass revenue back to our home builders. So, this is a way for our home builders to actually earn additional revenue stream. For every service that we can connect for the home buyer, the home builder will receive a certain percentage off of that revenue. So, not only is this free for them, but this is a way for them to make a little bit of extra money.
Greg Bray: I think that's what's fascinating to me is that you can kind of have this win-win of you can improve your customer experience and instead of paying to improve your [00:15:00] customer experience, you can actually make a few dollars. I mean, you're probably not gonna get rich, but you know, you can still add this additional revenue stream which can continue over time after the sale. That seems like a real win opportunity there from what I can see.
Brenda Keo: Yep. Correct. I like to say elevate and earn. You're elevating your brand and then you're earning revenue. So, it's pretty much a win-win.
Greg Bray: So, Brenda, you guys obviously are very in touch with these buyers at a very kind of stressful time, right? Buying a home is a big deal. It's a stressful experience. It's a lot of details and moving parts. What types of tips do you have for builders, just based on that experience, that could help them improve the way they communicate, the way that they are supporting their buyers at that closing point that's that big moment in this whole process?
Brenda Keo: I've never been in a home, I've always been in an apartment. But, you know, [00:16:00] after just hearing all the client experiences and feedback and then our builders, I think just building that relationship at the very beginning and letting them know that I've got you from the foundation all the way into the door type of service. Right? It's a stressful beginning, it's a stressful journey. But letting them know that you've got them from beginning to end until they move into their home, even after they're in their home.
There's a lot of things that I don't think about cuz I'm in an apartment, right? Because everything's taken care of by maintenance at the apartment, but in a home, cuz I've been looking more into that. I'm like, I gotta do lawn care. I have to get pest control, like shingles, roof, fences. Those are just the aftercare that you don't think about.
We are actually working on our vendor hub, which is going to be able to put all these different local vendors. So, then it's like really making sure that the clients, the home buyers are in their home, but a few years after wear and tear, they're gonna need these services and we wanna be able to provide all the options that are trusted vendors available [00:17:00] to them.
So, as a home builder, just letting your home buyer know that, Hey, I really do have you from foundation to all the way into the door to even when the kiddos grow up or when they're leaving the home. We'll be there for you, and we'll make sure that we take care of you in any step of the way.
So, that's why I think home builders really have a great way to build a relationship with their clients because they can really use our services to stay in touch with them, even after they move in. That way they can have that home buyer just be, Hey, like I worked with this home builder. They've literally made it a breeze for me from the moment I met with them to picking the house, to building it, to getting in. That's my recommendation.
Greg Bray: Kevin, would you agree with me that most builders don't look for these opportunities for revenue after the close? That's a real missed opportunity that a lot of folks aren't even paying attention to.
Kevin Weitzel: There's so many opportunities that builders forego when it comes to potential inventory capping. It does blow my mind. I still can't get over the fact that Brenda said, [00:18:00] Kevin's gas on our podcast. I'm still noticing that. I can't get it outta my mind. Somebody brought up Kevin's gas and no, I'm just kidding.
But no. Yeah it, is funny, literally home builders when they build an entire community, are handing an entire customer base to these utility companies. So, why not have a service that makes the process streamlined that they can monetize to a certain degree? Yeah, it just, it blows my mind that that isn't more prevalent.
Greg Bray: So, Brenda, we really appreciate you sharing so much with us today. It's been interesting to learn about this. I think it's something different that a lot of builders probably haven't even really thought of or even know it's out there. Do you have any last words of advice or information that you didn't get to share with us yet that you wanted to leave with our listeners today?
Brenda Keo: I think my only advice is if there are resources out there, take advantage of them. There's just so much I think that we just don't know that is out there. I feel like you're presented with so many options nowadays and everything takes time. Everything takes a lot of time. And so, I'm [00:19:00] in the mindset of getting time back. I've got eight hours of work. I've got 12 hours of free time, whatever it is, and so if there's anything that you could actually spend time to yourself and get that back, use these resources. Also, we talked about how there's missed revenue. There's just so many different opportunities, different things that a lot of our partners leave out on the table.
Nowadays, everyone is all about the reviews, everyone's all about the experience, and it's more of word by mouth and recommendation when you look at services when you're going out to eat when you're trying a new restaurant. And so, I think just any way that you can elevate your brand and kind of pass that on there. That way your consumers are the ones that are doing that marketing for you and then coming back to you I think is just full circle. So, just taking advantage of the resources out there and getting time back to yourself is what I'm gonna end with, but I appreciate you guys having me on here.
Kevin Weitzel: Brenda, let me ask you a question. Being a first-generation American, do you feel that Utility Connect provides a service that streamlines the [00:20:00] process for maybe language-challenged home buyers? Because obviously this melting pot that we live in, we sell homes to people that don't necessarily speak English. Is that something that your service helps out with that process?
Brenda Keo: Yeah, I'm just putting myself in my parents' shoes who are in that predicament. I do have to do a lot of translating for them because they might not understand everything that, you know, is being presented to them. So, being able to have it as a one call and being able to walk them through it and being able to like, look, hey, you may not realize all these things that you need for your home to be moving in.
So, I definitely think it would be helpful. I wish that there was something like this for them when they moved into their home 20 years ago. Even now it's a little bit confusing for them. So, to have everything in one call and to have one person to talk to about it, instead of being, okay, let me transfer you to this person, now there's this person, and to be able to educate them.
And we caterize a lot of our plans, right? So, If Kevin's like, Hey like, I'm barely home. I just need the most [00:21:00] simple internet plan out there. What are my options? We go over that. And I feel like sometimes my parents, when I'm on the call with them, they're always being upsold or it comes off scammy. My parents just say yes to a lot of things cuz they're like yes, yes. And I'm like, No, you don't need that. Why did you say yes? They don't understand, and so, I never looked at it that way. But I really wish that this was something that was available to my parents just because it's really just providing them that one-stop-shop call type of deal, but just being able to have one person explain it to them.
We do have Spanish-speaking agents on our side that can translate. But we are also really patient. A few weeks ago we had a home buyer that spoke French, and unfortunately, we don't have anyone here in our office that speaks French. So, we had the agent on the phone with us and they were translating and it was like an hour phone call, but hey, that's the one hour out of multiple days for that home buyer to get everything set up.
So, that was a great question and I don't think I've ever looked at our services that way. But yeah I do think it would be helpful [00:22:00] for someone that may need that help. Not translating right, but just making sure that they're actually being taken care of and maybe they don't really understand everything.
Kevin Weitzel: Or not being taken advantage of.
Brenda Keo: Yes. That's what it is.
Kevin Weitzel: And for the record, I don't speak French, but I laugh in French. See that? You learned something today.
Greg Bray: I learned something today too, Kevin.
Oh, man. Brenda, if somebody wants to learn more about Utility Connect, what's the best way for them to reach out and get in touch?
Brenda Keo: Yeah, reach out to me. So, my direct line is 972-528-9945. And then they could also send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm here Monday through Friday, 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM Central Times. Don't forget, we're in Texas time zone, central time zone. But I am happy to provide any information, go over this for you.
We actually have like demos and stuff to show you visually what it looks like the [00:23:00] consumer journey. Whatever you guys need, just reach out to me and I'm happy to go over it with you.
Greg Bray: Well, thank you so much, Brenda, for spending some time with us today, and thank you everybody for listening to The Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast. I'm Greg Bray with Blue Tangerine.
Kevin Weitzel: And I'm Kevin Weitzel with OutHouse. Thank you.