Whose name is on the door?Dave Satterleebusiness relationships, building relationships, effective management
As someone who services the mortgage industry, I frequently
encounter business owners and upper-level managers who say, "I
leave it up to my loan officers to keep in touch with their
borrowers on their own. That's their job, and if they can't be
bothered then that's their problem, not mine." And every time I
hear it I can't help but shake my head in abject disbelief.
I usually end up replying, "Sure, they're your loan officers'
customers, but aren't their borrowers your customers too?" or,
"Great! So how's that been working out for you so far?" More often
than not, I'm told that most of their sales team ends up doing
nothing at all to maintain their relationships with their hard-won
borrowers and that they realize they're probably losing tons of
business to their competitors because of it.
Now these are hardworking, intelligent people that I'm speaking
to - folks who should certainly know better than to leave
management-level, long-term strategic business decisions in the
hands of their often overworked and frequently transitory frontline
sales team. I can't help but wonder what other top-level decisions
that could make or break their businesses they're delegating to
their loan officers. Not many, I hope.
By their very nature, most loan officers are more concerned with
today's commission than with their - or their companies' -
long-term stability and profitability. As the mortgage market
tightens, the importance of generating a steady and measurable
stream of sales opportunities born from past borrowers has never
been greater. To leave such an important facet of one's business
plan up to frontline salespeople is to practically guarantee that
the job will either not get done or, at best, not get done
Owners and managers need to ask themselves, "Whose name is on
the door?" They, more than anyone else, have a vested interest in
the long-term health of their businesses. To leave the effective
management of their most precious asset - their database of past
customers - in the hands of folks who are mainly concerned with the
here-and-now is tantamount to financial Russian roulette.
By taking control on a company level of how he or she maximizes
the tremendous sales potential sitting in his or her own filing
cabinets, the smart owner or manager can position himself or
herself light-years ahead of the competition, most of whom simply
refuse to see the forest for the trees.
Doing so also has the added benefit of controlling how the
company is represented, thus ensuring that management, and not the
loan officers, controls what is being sent to the borrowers after
settlement. Nothing less than the companys professional image is at
stake; why risk jeopardizing that image by permitting it to be put
forth in as many different ways as there are loan officers?
Managing opportunities, not borrowers
An all-inclusive program that maintains consistent, two-way
communication with your borrowers after settlement will do much to
help ensure that you'll be in the right place at the right time
should an opportunity for another deal or referral present itself.
But what good is such a program if the opportunities your program
generates get lost in the shuffle? If your loan officers didn't
have the time or inclination to maintain contact, what makes you
think they'll follow up on any long-term leads that might happen to
come their way? Do they have a long-term tickler file set up and
ready to use? Probably not. Their intentions may be good but in
practice the leads will get forgotten more often than not as they
focus on schmoozing real estate agents and filling out their next
The best programs are those that not only maintain contact but
also take the next logical step by managing the sales opportunities
themselves in a measurable, quantifiable manner. Programs exist
that will do all of this for you and you owe it to yourself and to
your business to investigate such options, if for no other reason
than to compare them against your present efforts (if you have any
present efforts, that is).
Customer loyalty: A two-way street
The mortgage industry is chock-full of predators. You know it, I
know it and many of your borrowers know it, too. If you truly
believe that you and you alone will best look out for your
borrowers' best interests then you owe it to them to earn their
loyalty, if for no other reason than to help protect them from the
mortgage predators who seem to be working overtime to give your
industry a bad name.
By implementing a company-wide program to maintain your
relationships with them, you'll not only reap the benefits brought
about by increased business, you'll actually be doing your
borrowers a favor by keeping them in touch with someone who
genuinely cares about their future. Care enough to make sure that
all of your borrowers will be able to reach you more easily than
anyone else. How? By ensuring that your program is company-wide and
consistently employed, rather than leaving it up to the discretion
of the individual members of your sales team.
Remember, without a sound plan, most of your past borrowers are
nothing more than your competitors' future borrowers. The more
business you close without one, the more potential business you're
hemorrhaging away to your competitors, who are more than happy to
take over in your absence. The idea is for your borrowers to think
of you as their mortgage lender and not just a mortgage lender.
What would the impact have been on your production - on your
profits - if only a few more of your borrowers thought of you like
that this year?
Taking control and looking beyond customer
Okay, so the question isn't if a company should implement a
company-level post-settlement borrower communication and lead
generating program, but why it should do so. Let's take a few
minutes and contemplate the reasons why it makes sense and how to
get the most out of it.
First, it ensures that no borrower falls through the cracks.
Given the relatively high level of borrower satisfaction in the
industry (about 90 percent), most past borrowers are more than
willing to consider allowing their original lender to serve them
again or to send a referral (or 12) their way. Even if 99 percent
of your business is already coming from repeat customers and
referrals, the key issue is how many customers are not coming back
simply because you failed to properly maintain contact. It's the
deals youre not getting that count, not the ones you already
The first step in turning satisfied borrowers into potentially
loyal customers is out-of-this-world, memorable service - service
so good it gets talked about. Even the best post-settlement
customer communication and lead generating program is doomed to
failure if terrific service isn't initially provided. Customer
satisfaction isn't the final step toward customer loyalty, it's the
Quality service is a perception as much as a reality. You could
knock yourself senseless serving your borrowers but if their
perception is that the service was in some way sub par, then that
perception becomes the reality you have to live with. A good
customer communication program will permit you to measure the level
of perceived service and continually improve upon it. In terms of
customer loyalty, without a truly satisfied borrower to start with,
nothing else really matters.
It's not uncommon for some lenders to survey their borrowers at
the settlement table. This is, without a doubt, the worst possible
time to do so. Think about it. Your borrowers have just affixed
their signatures to what will likely be the single largest
financial obligation of their lives and have slogged through a
two-foot-high stack of paperwork in order to do so. Don't give them
one more piece of paper to contend with when all they want is to
get out of there! Please ... show them some mercy.
Instead, inform your borrowers that a brief satisfaction survey
will be arriving shortly after settlement. Let them know that you
take the surveys very seriously and that you'd consider it to be a
personal favor if they'd take a few minutes to share their thoughts
with you. True, you won't end up with as many surveys as you would
have had if you'd surveyed them at settlement, but the ones you do
end up with will be far more honest and, thus, much more
Commitment, commitment, commitment
How committed are you to your borrowers, your sales team, your
referral sources and your company? Goethe once said, "At the moment
of commitment, the universe conspires to assist you." It's true;
I've seen it happen myself, and it's nothing short of
A company-sponsored program will illustrate your commitment to
your borrowers in that you care enough about their well being to
spend the time and money it takes to maintain your relationship
with them, that you care enough to make sure that they don't fall
through the cracks and that you recognize that they're more than
just last month's commission check.
It will illustrate your commitment to your sales team too,
especially if you share in its cost, either in part or - better
still - in full. By showing that you take your program seriously
and that you're willing to implement it on a company level, you'll
be announcing for all the world to hear that you're committed to
doing whatever you can to contribute toward their success. If
you're smart, you'll use your program as a recruiting and retention
tool as well.
Now, what about your referral sources - the folks from whom you
hope to secure referral upon referral? A company-wide program that
allows you to maintain contact with their buyers and lets your
referral sources know when they might be back in the market will
set you apart from the vast multitude of lenders who consider a
referral relationship to be a one-way street.
By committing to your program, you'll be simultaneously
committing to your borrowers, your sales team and your referral
partners. What do you think the impact of making such a commitment
will have on your business? If you truly don't know, then you might
as well stop reading right now and look for more leads to purchase
off the Web.
Commit to your program and stick with it, even when times get
tight. This is precisely when it will be of highest value to
What money can't buy
Contrary to what some mortgage industry customer relationship
management providers might say, customer loyalty can't be bought;
it must be earned and built over time, through a combination of
diligence and a true commitment on your part to treating your
borrowers as more than just a dollar sign.
The ugly truth is that you'll never turn every customer into a
customer for life. It just doesn't happen. The most you can do is
to shower your borrowers with memorably exceptional service and do
everything in your power to increase your odds of being in the
right place at the right time to get another "at bat." Do that
consistently, and you'll have a very good chance of turning many
more of your merely satisfied customers into loyal customers. With
a little thought and a small investment in the future of your
business, there's no reason why most of your hard-won borrowers
shouldn't think of you first the next time they're thinking about
their mortgage financing needs.
Whose name is on the door? If it's yours, then you owe it to
yourself and to everyone else in your organization - and to anyone
whom you might wish to someday pass on your company - to make a
long-term commitment to your borrowers and give them the attention
they so richly deserve. If you don't, you'll most likely end up
losing them to someone who does.
Dave Satterlee is the Atlantic regional marketing advisor
for Continuity Programs
Inc. He can be reached at (800) 251-3874 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.