What Do Goodall Homes and Sheldon Cooper Have in Common?

On our Tennessee Road Trip, we caught up with Koby Dumont, Conley Black and Jed Sisk of Goodall Homes, Professional Builder’s Builder of the Year, at the Hayden Hills community in Knoxville. There we learned (among other things) some innovative sales and marketing tactics they’re using to connect with today’ buyers—both young and old.

What They’re Doing

Goodall Homes has put a new spin on virtual tours—using robots as tour guides in their model homes.

Chances are if you watch the Big Bang Theory or get caught up like many of us can looking at photos and memes on our social feeds, you’ve seen robot Sheldon. On one episode, Sheldon sent a robot to work in his place—riding with Leonard to Caltech, tooling around the campus and interacting with colleagues. Of course, in this case the robot was a plot device and resulted in some awkward and funny interactions.

Goodall Homes has applied the same technology to help staff their model homes and generate awareness for their company at events with more positive, less entertaining results.

The builder was looking for a solution to allow folks to tour their model homes independently on off hours. They tried iPads first. A prospective buyer would be invited to take the iPad off the wall and carry it around with them. Then, via FaceTime, someone on the Goodall team would engage the buyer and answer any questions—driving them around the house with statements like “Why don’t we check out the kitchen?” and “So, what do you think?”

The iPad didn’t quite work, since it tied up people’s hands. They couldn’t take notes or pictures without putting the devise down.

So, Conley, the division’s sales manager, decided to give robots a whirl.

How Their Current Solution Works

The entire thing can be manned by one person working off-site.

Using a Ring WiFi smart doorbell, the customer service or sales person can see who is at the door and capture their ID before letting them into the house. Using an app on their smart phone or computer, the sales agent speaks directly to the prospective buyer face to face.

The model we visited has two robots—one upstairs and one down, as well as a script they follow for guiding people through the space. Typically, the robot follows the person into the other room, and the agent answers any questions they may have. They continue the tour on the second floor with another robot by saying something like “Go on and head upstairs, and I’ll meet you there.”


Before leaving, the buyer is invited to fill out a card, and someone follows up to set a live appointment if appropriate.

While you’d think the human to robot interaction would be awkward as it was in Sheldon’s case, buyers seem to be comfortable with the technology. “We put Goodall t-shirts on our robots at home events,” says Conley. “People of all ages actually interact with them and follow them around the floor.”

Goodall has had great success so far in scheduling follow up meetings at their design center and is considering expanding the program into other model homes.

Why It Matters

Typical model homes are open during business hours that conflict with the schedules of working and active buyers. They are also expensive to staff.

With this type of robot-driven tour, the buyer still gets to interact with a person and have their questions answered. At the same time, there is less pressure than they’d feel with a sales agent right in the room, so they can really take their time without feeling uncomfortable.

Each robot costs about $2,000. A single person could conceivably man several model homes simultaneously—responding to buyers as needed and cutting down considerably on staffing costs.