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Forward on Reverse: An equity-consuming home loan

National Mortgage Professional
Mar 28, 2007

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 well. 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 1003. 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 satisfaction 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 are. 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 first. 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 valuable. 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 miraculous. 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 everyone involved. 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 [email protected]
Published
Mar 28, 2007
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