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   ARTICLE   |   From Scotsman Guide Residential Edition   |   February 2007

8 Ways to Improve Customer Service

Brokers who follow a few simple suggestions can boost their referral business

r_2007-02_Leffler_spotThe mortgage business is a service industry. With most mortgage companies generally offering the same products, reputation and service likely are the most-important factors differentiating one lender or broker from the rest. Although most professionals in our industry genuinely think of themselves as quality service-providers, the reality is that only a few stars actually shine.

To guarantee quality service, brokers must commit to themselves, to their careers and to their clients to providing exceptional levels of service. I say “exceptional” because, in this day and age, “good” service simply won’t cut it.

By unequivocally providing exceptional service, your journey is well under way. Once you have committed, the following eight steps will help you consistently improve and maintain the high levels of customer service your customers deserve.

1. Follow the golden rule: Remember to treat each individual the way that you would want to be treated. Interact with all clients the way that you would want someone to interact with your parents.

Regardless of my mood or whatever else I have on my mind, I treat all callers — from the rate-shopper to the client looking to finance a $1 million property — as if their calls made my day, even if I have to force a smile in my voice. This type of karma can’t help but come around.

2. Make them loan officers: I begin most transactions by telling clients that, by the time everything’s over, they will be able to sell mortgages. This usually elicits a laugh, but it’s also not too far from the truth. I explain the process, step-by-step, in a language that’s understandable to them, and I avoid industry jargon.

From the itemization of the good-faith estimate to knowing what the annual percentage rate means before they receive the truth-in-lending statement, clients most often appreciate my going the extra mile to make sure that they understand what’s going on. After all, it may only be a $175,000 transaction to me. But to them, it’s their home. And it’s crucial to do this without sounding condescending.

3. Return calls: Customer-service surveys consistently find that the No. 1 complaint clients or referral sources have is that brokers don’t return their calls. If you implement no other change, at least make a more concerted effort to return every call you receive in a timely manner.

If you find yourself stretched thin, you can establish appropriate expectations by stating what your turnaround time for returning calls is on your outgoing voice-mail message.

4. Underpromise and overdeliver: If I know for certain that I will have an appraisal back on Friday or an underwriting decision on Thursday, I will let clients know that they will hear from me by next Tuesday. This way, they’re pleasantly surprised when I call them with the information on Thursday or Friday. And surprises like this, although they may seem inconsequential, often leave a positive and lasting impression.

Never promise something simply because it sounds good or because it’s what the client wants to hear. I’ve had clients thank me for being realistic with them from the start when other loan officers promised them the world and ultimately could not deliver.

5. Give a receipt confirmation: Whether it’s a homeowner’s insurance declaration in the mail, clients’ signed documents via overnight delivery or a fax of their passport, be sure to acknowledge receipt of every single item clients furnish. This can be time-consuming, but it’s one less thing with which clients have to be concerned. And that’s always appreciated, whether expressed or not.

And always ask clients about the best way to communicate with them. Many clients are fine with a quick e-mail or text message.

6. Get organized: Tickler files are useful for organization. I use an online, Web-based calendar to organize all my events, appointments and tasks. With these calendars, you can easily set up e-mail or text-message ticklers that remind you to follow up with clients on a particular date and time. Make sure to add everything to your calendar as soon as you schedule it.

These ticklers can send you a reminder from five minutes to 14 days before an event. From closings to appraisals to clients’ birthdays, once an item is on your calendar, you’ll be more likely to keep your promise.

7. Give regular updates: Many brokers often mistakenly subscribe to the adage that “no news is good news.” The truth is, however, that in clients’ or referral sources’ minds, no news means you’ve forgotten about the most important transaction in the world — theirs. That’s why it’s imperative to follow up with your clients and referral sources every step of the way, from the initial approval and the appraisal being ordered to the title arriving, their loan being released to close, etc. The idea is to keep clients in the loop throughout the entire process. And although it may seem a bit cumbersome, simple organization will make this much easier.

8. Make affirmation calls: All clients get a call from me the day before their closing. I use this opportunity, which I refer to as my affirmation call, to thank clients for their trust, to reiterate the terms of their transaction, to confirm that they are financially prepared for closing, to confirm closing specifics and most important, to ask them if they have any questions. Most often, because of all the follow-up during the transaction, they don’t have any questions. But occasionally they do ask a question or two that I’m happy could be addressed before they reach the closing table. And, before I hang up, I always ask clients for a referral.

The simple truth is that not every client will be satisfied. There always will be people who aren’t happy unless they have something about which to complain. But overall, I believe that by following these eight basic suggestions, you consistently will satisfy your customers and exceed their expectations.

And we all know what satisfied customers mean: referrals, referrals and more referrals.


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