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   ARTICLE   |   From Scotsman Guide Residential Edition   |   March 2018

Five-Star Customer Service

Mortgage companies can learn a thing or two from restaurants and hotels

As most housing professionals know, the mortgage industry varies drastically from state to state and city to city. Why? Because the needs of clients are different in every location. Some areas are filled with a wide array of types of buyers and borrowers, including investors, renovators, mixed-use residence owners, etc. Other areas are primarily composed of one type of buyer — people looking for a single-family residence to enjoy as a primary or vacation home.

In markets with one primary type of buyer and property, mortgage companies and originators must learn to distinguish themselves not by their products — because most companies offer the same conventional and government financing — but by their level of service instead. When borrowers in an area all want products that most companies offer, however, it is essential to not just be better, but to be the best at providing that product. Companies and originators in competitive markets must bring five-star, gold-standard service to their clients.

Consider the Forbes travel-guide ratings. Yes, these are for hotels and restaurants, but the concept is certainly applicable to the mortgage industry. If you walk into a hotel or restaurant that has the Forbes Five-Star symbol posted in the entryway, you expect several things.

Never say no

The first thing you expect from a five-star experience is that you will never hear the word “no.” If you request a chocolate malt at 3 a.m., and the hotel does not offer a chocolate malt, let alone at three in the morning when no stores are open, the answer you receive will not be, “No. Sorry about that.” Rather, it will be something like this: “We can offer you chocolate ice cream or a milkshake, but will not be able to get malt until 7 a.m. We can bring a desired alternative up to you in 15 minutes.”

What can be gleaned from this? The answer to the question is not no, but rather an alternative solution. The customer does not feel rejected. They simply feel that their top choice is not available, but an alternate option that may satisfy the same need is attainable.

In the mortgage industry, this is highly applicable. If you cannot offer potential borrowers the loan they are looking for, what can you offer them? If they don’t have the credit needed, help them improve their credit so they can get a better rate. If they need to save for reserves, or have a stronger job history to be approved, educate them on what they need to do to become home-purchase ready.

By asking questions, and by providing answers that go beyond a simple “accept” or “reject,” you provide customers with the support and the vote of confidence they need to establish and maintain a productive relationship with you.

Anticipate needs

The second thing you will notice at any five-star establishment is that your needs are always anticipated. The bellhop opens your door before you can. Your steak knife appears next to your plate before you notice it’s missing. Your glass is refilled as soon as it’s emptied. This anticipation of needs is highly valuable, because it provides clients with a level of personal attention that, in turn, helps earn their respect.

The same holds true within the mortgage industry. Would it make sense for a previous client to refinance? Proactively reach out and explain the benefits of refinancing into a different loan. Are your clients happy with your service? Request their feedback, acknowledge their comments and let them know how that feedback will be incorporated into your process moving forward. Anticipating borrowers’ wants and needs and proactively providing updates throughout the process ensures a high level of appreciation, as well as a more trusting relationship.

Take this anticipation a step further and think about special programs you can offer to borrowers. Could you provide fast-track processing to show appreciation for borrowers with solid credit scores? By rewarding those clients with faster processing, you not only please them, you also increase your business by moving certain loans through faster. Other similar programs can help promote your business and make your borrowers feel appreciated.

It’s also important to be an expert in your market. This may sound obvious, but originators who specialize in specific markets — and know those markets inside and out — can offer clients a higher level of service, and more easily anticipate their needs.

Originators in Florida, for example, need to know how hurricane insurance and home-owner’s insurance affect their borrowers’ loans. Knowing the answers to clients’ questions, and being able to provide quick and thorough feedback, is a huge part of providing quality customer service.

Finally, and this is a simple one, take a deep look into the customer experience. How available are you or your branch’s originators to customers, and what kinds of hoops do they need to jump through to get help? Do borrowers have to fill out multiple online forms to get an initial call? If they call the office, how many prompts must they get through to reach a live person who can help them?

Making the customer’s experience simple and pleasant is a basic, yet important part of providing quality customer service. It affects their ability to work with you and the quality of their relationship with you.

•  •  •

As most originators know, quality customer service goes a long way toward developing long-term, profitable relationships. Because so many lenders and mortgage companies offer similar rates and products, customer loyalty and respect can be difficult to attain without some additional X-factor. Customer service is one such factor that can play a major role in determining whether or not an originator can maintain a relationship with a borrower, particularly as rates, the housing market, and the economy continue to shift. Keep these points in mind, and watch your profits and company culture evolve.


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