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   ARTICLE   |   From Scotsman Guide Residential Edition   |   December 2016

Make 2017 the Year of Customer Service

Improving communication can keep borrowers informed and happy

As technology takes larger and larger steps into the future, we must acknowledge and accept that digital channels not only affect how we communicate with friends and colleagues but, even more importantly, the way we manage customer service with clients.

It is an unfortunate reality that many consumers only voice opinions when they are upset about service, not when they are pleased with it. With online forums offered by the Better Business Bureau, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and social media platforms, borrowers now have outlets where they can easily and electronically express their dissatisfaction with mortgage companies and originators, during and after the lending process.

In recent years, the most consistent complaint from borrowers is that mortgage companies overpromise and underdeliver. Although some might see this as a negative, it is actually a great opportunity for improvement from originators and other industry professionals who deal with borrowers directly. Every loan transaction usually involves 10 to 12 people from start to finish, and any one of them can ultimately impact or delay the process. When this happens, borrowers become frustrated and are more likely to share negative feedback about companies online.

How can this be prevented? Maintaining an open line of communication between loan originators and borrowers helps ensure those borrowers are less likely to feel dissatisfied with their mortgage companies — or with any hiccups in the process. The communication onus is always on the originator. It is the originator’s responsibility to take the mystery out of the mortgage process for borrowers from the beginning.

This is why originators should consider increasing their focus on communication in 2017. To help, there are several steps that can be taken.

  • Establish trust and respect. Navigating the financial marketplace can be overwhelming for new and experienced borrowers. When borrowers decide to move forward and select a mortgage company, they entrust that company with making their dreams of owning, refinancing or remodeling a home become a reality. Establish trust and respect with borrowers by removing the mystery of the mortgage process from day one.
  • Set expectations with borrowers. Loan originators should know how their company processes a loan and how long that process takes. The biggest mistake originators make is not educating borrowers on the process — from application to closing — as well as how long it will take before they get to sign their documents and take ownership of their home.

Unfortunately, many originators simply make generalizations on closing timeframes, which is a disservice to all parties involved. When this happens, the process can get derailed from the beginning because there is a lot that happens in the loan process besides underwriting and closing.

If a mortgage company’s loans generally close in 21 days, for example, and an originator informs borrowers of this timeframe at the beginning, that is great. It would be even better, however, if that originator set expectations with the borrowers at that moment that their loan will close in 21 days if A, B, C and D happen by their due dates. In addition, the originator should explain that specific issues such as X, Y and Z could delay the process, and that if these happen, their 21-day close will turn into a 30-day close. By setting expectations at the beginning, originators can potentially avoid borrower disappointment and dissatisfaction over delays.

  • Overcommunicate. The best way for originators to ensure they keep borrowers updated throughout the process is by overcommunicating. Begin with an explanation on the timing metrics of the process from start to finish and the responsibilities of the borrower, as mentioned earlier. From there, status calls should happen regularly and be used to reset expectations when necessary throughout the process.
    These updates help hold all parties accountable. Overcommunicating ensures there are no surprises for anyone involved. In addition, borrowers will never feel out of the loop, which ultimately increases customer service.
  • Address issues and concerns. When issues arise, originators should immediately communicate with borrowers instead of hoping for the issue to go away or scrambling to solve it before the borrower finds out. Don’t be afraid to disappoint borrowers. Customers deserve to know if there is apotential problem that could affect their closing date or anything else associated with their loan application.

Rather than let fear take over and dictate how issues get addressed, remove it. Remove the fear of disappointing clients. Remember that trust, respect and expectations have already been established. When issues arise, it is important to either present borrowers with proposed resolutions and updated time frames or work together with borrowers to solve issues and continue moving forward in the loan process.

•  •  •

It is important to be proactive, and not reactive at the last minute, when it comes to addressing issues and concerns. When all else fails, put yourself in the borrower’s shoes.

Buying a home or property can be stressful no matter which side of the table you are on. The easier the process is and the more borrowers know about it, the better they will feel. Originators who help borrowers understand the process and ease their path through will earn their clients’ gratitude so they come back when they are ready to remodel or buy their next home. A customer for life is better for everyone.


 


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