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   ARTICLE   |   From Scotsman Guide Residential Edition   |   November 2012

Get Good Returns from Good Service

Don’t neglect the simple things when it comes to customer satisfaction

It may seem elementary that customer service is the most important aspect of virtually any industry, but it’s especially true in an industry where consumers are making one of the biggest purchases of their lives. The lending industry today is combating a less-than-positive image, and you would think service would be foremost for any mortgage professional. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

From underwriting delays to deals falling through or missed purchase deadlines, there is a wide spectrum of issues that can distract you from being a borrower-centric mortgage originator. Here’s a look at some of the reasons why customer service can suffer, and some tips to counteract those issues and increase customer satisfaction.

Avoid delays

To ensure that a loan gets off to a fast start, make sure that your initial disclosures are correct and get them out within 24 hours, if not at the meeting with the borrower. It’s all too easy to drop the loan application on the processor’s desk and expect the processor to send out the disclosures within the three-day requirement. Processors are busy, too, however, so they may send them out on the third day, which means clients have gone three days without contact from their broker. Borrowers are already nervous, so waiting for the initial disclosures for three days can make them feel like nothing is happening with their loan. This also can cause them to feel disconnected from the process — and from you.

Another common delay often is the loan-document retrieval after the initial loan application is taken. One way to avoid this is to have borrowers bring in the documents you know they will need upfront, like one-month current paystubs, W-2s, employer contact information, bank statements covering 60 days including explanations of large deposits, and any other documents that you will need for that loan. This shows the customer that you are knowledgeable about the transaction and also limits surprises later in processing. No borrower wants to hear that a loan has been delayed because of an issue that could have been discovered in the first meeting.

"Getting feedback from clients will accomplish several things. It will show customers that you care, and even if they had a bad experience, they will know they had a voice in the end."

After the file has been processed and is ready for submission, communicating progress to your customers (including the anticipated turnaround times) will help keep them engaged. Make sure your files are pre-underwritten, and be sure to include letters to the underwriter explaining the files. This will help to minimize delays and limit additional conditions coming out of underwriting.

Make it personal

These are just a few tips on the front end to keep your customer satisfied. There is more that can be done that is not loan-file specific, however, and these are the human aspects of lending. Try to put yourself in the borrower’s shoes and do what you would want done for you. Try to think of the borrower’s needs and solicit feedback on the loan process, as well as your company’s work.

For instance, are there conditions coming from the underwriter that seem to be just an exercise in document gathering versus an actual eligibility issue? This is where your choice in the companies you work with is critical.  You should strive to develop relationships with companies that understand that borrowers are customers and that putting them through unnecessary additional hoops is something to avoid.

Unlike companies that serve hundreds of thousands of customers in a month, mortgage companies’ customers are smaller in number, but their purchase involves a lot more money and a long-term commitment. It may seem that customer satisfaction after the close is less important for your business, but it is actually extremely important. How can you gauge the satisfaction of a customer who just closed a loan with you? Send that customer survey card with space for suggestions and get feedback on things like the transaction’s best part, worst part, turnaround time, service provider, etc. Keep the card as anonymous as possible, so clients feel free to be honest. You also can get feedback via online surveys.

Getting feedback from clients will accomplish several things. It will show customers that you care, and even if they had a bad experience, they will know they had a voice in the end. This will make them more likely to come back for a refinance or another purchase, because they know you are listening and trying to improve. They also are likely to give you a referral for the same reasons. Feedback can pinpoint areas of strength or weakness, as well as what service partners are rated the best, which will help you solidify those partnerships.

Keep a happy staff

Another aspect of quality customer service that can get lost is the job you’re doing making sure your employees (and occasionally co-workers) are satisfied and able to manage their workloads. Your must ensure that your employees are happy in their jobs and that they are operating at their peak.

An unhappy or stressed employee is less productive and can result in mistakes, as well as discourteous exchanges with the borrower and other service providers, all of which can slow the progress of the loan. If you see a marked downturn in someone’s production or attitude, or if you see an increase in tardiness and/or absenteeism, it is critical that you ask questions. Don’t be afraid of the answers, and be armed with possible solutions.

Here are a few possibilities for poor performance that can help you ascertain what may be the cause of stress or job dissatisfaction:

  • Role conflict happens when the tasks an employee is expected to do are at odds with each other.
  • Role ambiguity happens when employees are not sure what is expected of them.
  • Overload is having too many tasks to perform.
  • Underload is when an employee has too few tasks to perform.

Depending on the feedback you get from employees, there are various means of reducing stress, including meditation, exercise, help from a mentor or time-management training. You also may want to consider team- building events or fun outside-the- office excursions. These will depend on the size of your company and the  resources available, but these concepts should be tailored to your office’s idea of fun.

• • •

Achieving a high customer satisfaction level is critical for mortgage originators. Why? It’s simple: Happy customers are not as likely to change to a competitor, which creates greater profits. High levels of satisfaction build emotional bonds instead of simply a rational choice or preference.

Think about how much time and effort you put into procuring your borrower; this makes it important to retain your clients and potentially their referrals, as well. Remember to seek feedback from clients to make sure that you’re on the same page as they are. Many customers will not complain to you, but they will complain to their friends. And in the age of the Internet, that can be a far-reaching complaint.

Remember, start with the basics — like getting the disclosures done correctly and getting them out quickly. Follow the application throughout the process, and make sure that the 1003 is done thoroughly and correctly; get the supporting documentation to the processor to put the loan together to submit to underwriting. All of this will get the loan off to a positive start.

Don’t forget the human aspect of service, and check in with your borrowers and solicit their feedback. By making the borrower the center of your business and always putting yourself in the borrower’s shoes, you are more likely to have happy and satisfied clients. This will lead to more return business, more referrals, and a positive name in the industry and the community.


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