As published in Scotsman Guide's Residential Edition, November 2005.
Being a loan officer often is about little more than handling emotions. Purchasing a home is stressful. If you stay calm through the process and keep everyone else calm, you will be seen as the expert you are.
It is not whether you will have problems come up, it is when. And you need to learn how to handle upset customers. There are too many hands in the pie on any mortgage loan for everything to always go perfectly. Observing a few simple tips will help you close the loans and still get referrals. In fact, loans in which something went wrong and I had to keep everyone calm have actually yielded me the most referrals.
My strategy is to not hide the truth from them. This works for owners or managers when a loan officer drops the ball. Often, customers are irritated because things went wrong on the loan, and the loan officer was scared to tell them. Communicate weekly with your clients in process and be truthful, and you rarely will receive an agitated call from a customer. For example, if the lender denied their loans, let your clients know you have a back-up lender to try.
Should distressed customers call, try this simple three-part strategy to diffuse the situation:
Let them vent. When these customers first get you on the phone, they are mad and want to let you know it. Let them, and show some empathy. This loan is often their only loan.
Next, make sure you understand their concerns. People get lost in details when they are upset, and they lose the big picture. Say, "I understand. You are nervous that the ball has been dropped and that you may not close on time. Is that correct?"
Finally, provide a solution. If you are unsure of the loan's status or of what you can do, tell clients you will look into it and will call them back in a few hours. This buys you time to find a solution. Once you've found one, call back. Telling customers the truth days before the closing and letting them know the options ultimately will calm them down.
It also helps to remind clients that they have the control in the transaction. They can choose to not refinance, to not purchase or to find another lender. If you are honest, concerned and give firm options, they usually will calm down. Focus on the big picture.
Another calming-down technique is called H.A.L.T. Recently, a loan was approved, but the seller and buyer did not get along. The deal became more contentious. Finally, the buyer said he was walking because he was so mad. He stood to lose a lot of money. He was not being rational, but it is difficult to be logical when dealing with emotions.
In this situation, I told the client to H.A.L.T. The idea is to never make a decision when you are hungry, angry, lonely or tired. Instead, clients should halt, eat, rest, take a step back and calm down, then make a proper decision.
I have yet to see this technique fail. Once their emotions are quelled, people tend to make the right decision, and the deal gets done. In the end, they are thanking you as the person who "kept it together."
I encourage you to use H.A.L.T. when faced with a borrower making a rash decision out of anger or another strong emotion. I also encourage you to use the method yourself when you are making decisions. Never make a decision, especially a major one, when you are hungry, angry, lonely or tired. You will save yourself a lot of heartache.
And remember, upset customers are just people like you who are under stress.
Brian L. Peart is president of Nexus Financial Group Inc. and its commercial division, Commercial Capital Ltd.
He is also the publisher of the Commercial Top Producer Training Course. He has free weekly tips available through his Web site at www.nexusfinancial.com. Click on the opt-in box.