The number one complaint from real estate agents is that lenders/originators beg for business, but when given a deal, don’t perform as promised or expected. The cliché “under-promise and over-deliver” has been used so often, most originators don’t take the time to analyze if they are actually giving a higher level of service than what was expected.
The secret to higher production without increasing expense is to consistently give “over the top,” exceptional customer service. Without this, your marketing efforts will be in vain. It won’t matter how many marketing touches or marketing dollars you spend, if you don’t follow through with service to Realtors and borrowers, they will feel little motivation to send referrals to you. It will take longer and cost more to get each new loan into your pipeline.
I had an experience that reinforced the marketing power of customer service. A past borrower of mine had moved across the country for a job transfer seven years earlier. During this time, I had moved to a different part of the state and changed companies. He had recently relocated back to the state and was looking to buy a home. His agent referred him to a couple of originators who had not impressed him. He remembered the positive experience I had provided and decided to see if I was still in the mortgage business. After using directory assistance he called my home to see if I was willing to help him with his financing. This was an excellent borrower who came to me only because of the service I had given years earlier. I can honestly say this experience was a highlight in my career.
Customers expect great service. This has now become the minimum requirement for originators. What can you do to take service levels from great to over the top? What can you do to get borrowers and agents to say, “I’m going to make sure I give you referrals for the amazing way you handled my transaction?”
When asked what made him loyal, one Realtor I interviewed stated that his LO always makes sure the numbers at closing are the same or lower than the original good faith estimate. The agent knows his buyers will be satisfied at closing, making the transaction end on a positive note. The lender pays for unexpected fees rather than charge the borrower more than was expected. At the closing table, (where the originator is always present), the originator takes a copy of the original good faith estimate and makes a point to explain that the costs have come in at or below the estimate. Most consumers have either had an experience of being charged more than expected or know of someone who has, but then felt pressured to close because they could not delay the closing. This small act has created raving fans out of real estate agents as well as borrowers, making this lender a consistent top producer.
Being available. I liked to ask borrowers why they chose myself over another lender, because I wanted to know what I was doing right. Quite often, I was chosen because of my quick response to questions and needs. This included being available to meet clients on their schedule, responding quickly to phone messages, and getting answers to questions as quickly as possible. By consistently doing these things with potential clients as well as borrowers already in your pipeline, you are reinforcing the message that they are important and their needs are a priority to you.
Many Realtors feel LOs avoid phone calls once we have the deal in the door. This may or may not be the case, but perception is reality. Make sure you return calls promptly or try making regular status calls before the agent has a need to call you. If you are working on a problem and have not yet solved it, but know the agent is anxious, call to say, “I wanted to let you know I am still working on this problem and hope to have an answer to you by (time/date).” You will be amazed at the amount of leverage this gives you with agents. You are showing respect to them and they will respect your need for more time.
Know your business. You don’t and can’t possibly know all there is to know in this business, yet it is important to remember that knowledge is power and your clients are relying on you to be the expert. This means you must become as knowledgeable as possible and continually work to educate yourself further.
Consumers want to work with an originator who makes them feel safe and confident with their financing decisions.
By giving reasonable choices of products and the information to help them make a decision, you are placing yourself in a position as a trusted advisor. There will be less rate and fee shopping because you have become a valuable asset to them. If you do not know the answers to questions, explain that your support team has a wealth of information and you will get back with them as soon as possible with the answer. Utilizing your processor, underwriter, or account reps, find the answer and immediately report back to your client.
Schedule time each week for your education. This can include such things as investor announcements, program guidelines, trade magazines, or training sessions with underwriters or account reps. One to two hours a week will keep you up-to-date on loan changes and program details. Plan to attend at least one seminar or conference each year.
Most important client. The more you are able to treat each agent and borrower in such a way that they perceive themselves as your most important client, the more referrals you will receive. You are being given the opportunity to help with one of the most important financial decisions they will make and if this is a rewarding experience for each borrower, they will want to reciprocate your efforts with referrals.
Get your team on board with this concept. Introduce processors to clients. Rather than just names and numbers on an application, the staff will now feel a connection with each client. They will naturally work harder to make sure the client’s transaction is as smooth as possible. Have your processor e-mail the appraisal and other updates to clients as they are received, which will also reduce phone calls to you for status updates.
Go the extra mile so the process is a pleasant, rewarding experience. By making sure your office is a professional place to meet, you are creating a feeling of security for clients. This also applies to you as the professional. Sloppy and casual do not spell success and borrowers are looking for someone successful to trust with this important step in their lives.
Do everything in your power to be available at the appointment time. No one likes to wait. It doesn’t just make you look busy (which some loan officers interpret as successful), it makes you seem inconsiderate of your client’s time. It is also a great idea to have cold drinks for clients and items to entertain young children.
Remember, there is very little traffic found when traveling the “extra mile.” As the mortgage business has tried to become more and more service-oriented, it will take higher levels of creativity to keep ahead with new and innovative ideas. Your efforts in going the extra distance will be rewarded in higher production with less expense.
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