As published in Scotsman Guide's Residential Edition, September 2007.
Most of us have received customer complaints. The real question, though, is what you did when the phone call or letter came.
Did you respond immediately, showing your good customer service? Or did you blow the customer off and never take action?
There are many reasons to pay attention to customer complaints. Aside from being a good business practice, responding to complaints helps create happy customers -- think referrals -- and also can help you avoid lawsuits and inquiries from state regulators.
Most professionals talk about their great customer service, but few actually demonstrate it. This is a great place to set yourself and your company apart.
Frequently in our industry, customer complaints arrive weeks or months after a loan closes. Brokers who are willing to accept and deal with them no matter when they arrive can help resolve the issue and improve their own reputation at the same time.
When mistakes happen -- or when a rogue loan officer lies to a borrower -- you'll most likely hear about it at some point. So how do you turn that customer into a referral source?
You act, that's how.
Immediately pounce on their problem and find a way to solve it. It may be too late to rescind the loan, but the worst thing you can do is ignore the complaint. Instead, find out what customers see as a solution and whenever possible, negotiate something acceptable to both sides.
Sometimes customers are wrong. Even so, listening to them might calm them down. They'll also be more likely to listen to your side of the story. If you need to review the file and get back to them, make sure you do so.
Never blame customers for not understanding the transaction or waiting so long to bring up their dissatisfaction. Instead, show concern that they didn't receive the best service from your loan officer. If you can help the borrower -- even if it costs some money -- then it's worth it to do so. Unhappy borrowers whose problems are solved will tell their family and friends how your company is different from all of the others. In so doing, they set you up for future business.
So what happens when you ignore borrowers' complaints? Just the opposite.
They'll likely talk about you in a derogatory manner, telling everyone they know about your poor customer service. Moreover, because there's so much money involved in a mortgage transaction, chances are good that they'll call a lawyer or complain to the state banking department.
If a lawyer contacts you about the complaint, immediately retain a lawyer yourself. If you ignore a lawyer, you're almost guaranteed to wind up with a lawsuit. And guess what? The fees from a lawsuit are almost always more than what it costs simply to deal with the complaint.
Perhaps even more worrisome is the possibility that your now irate customer will contact your state banking department -- you know, the one that granted you your license.
You can't ignore banking department regulators, and they don't react kindly when borrowers say you haven't responded to their complaints. Nor do they accept excuses.
Licensing statutes include various penalties for violations, including fines and revocation of your license. You must make a good-faith effort to answer a regulator's inquiry. Although the regulator may take its time imposing sanctions, sometimes weeks or months, it'll never allow you to disrespect them and its power to regulate you. The fact is, the regulator's power to sanction you can cost you your business -- all because you ignored a customer complaint.
Instead, respond to your complaints immediately. Rather than staring down lawsuits and regulators, you might just find yourself collecting referrals.
Robin Gronsky, sole proprietor of Gronsky Law Office, has been bringing her mortgage-licensing and compliance expertise to the needs of the mortgage profession for almost a decade.
For more information about Gronsky, visit her Web site at www.mortgagelicensesolutions.com or call her at (866) 821-4602.