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Reaching borrowers with non-traditional credit

National Mortgage Professional
Mar 29, 2007

Good manners mean good businessRyan Floriocustomer service In the past few years, I've become more and more aware of the subtle messages of disrespect that are communicated from the businesses I patronize. Last week, I had a surprising experience to the contrary, and it made me realize that bad manners in business are so common that to receive better-than-average service can be downright shocking. This downward trend in service expectations conveys that we are lowering our standards in the way we are valued as consumers, but a more meaningful observation for businesspeople shows that the slightest improvement in how we communicate can become our biggest competitive advantage. Maybe you have had a similar experience to this. I was having dinner with friends in a restaurant, and the waiter gave us poor advice that resulted in our ordering enough food to feed a small village. To make matters worse, the food was delivered cold, and the rare wine we selected was poured with cork particles included. My attempts to resolve the issues were met by a polite young man who explained that it was his first experience as a waiter and, to the dismay of us both, we were the casualties of the first evening of his new career. He apologized profusely and asked for our patience in his delivery. My biggest surprise came when our check arrived, with a large portion of the meal price deducted from our bill. It seemed that our emerging waiter had brought our complaints to his manager, and our business was important to them both. I was so impressed with the young man's valor in dealing with the night's challenges that I rewarded him handsomely with a tip concordant with the original amount of the bill. Not only had this young man's behavior earned him a substantial financial reward, but this restaurant had also earned a customer for life. We can all recall exceptional service experiences in a restaurant, but how many times recently were you delighted with a customer service representative when dealing with your cell phone provider or computer company? Does the cashier at your local grocer look you in the eye and thank you for your business? When you called your attorney or accountant recently, did his secretary greet you with a smile in her voice and handle your request promptly? When was the last time your doctor or dentist shook your hand and asked if there was anything else he could do for you? In my own review of these questions, I began to wonder if enhanced customer care was unrealistic in times when businesses were most concerned with skimming time and money in efforts to preserve profitability. Can business owners and salespeople afford to show their customers they are valued? The greater question is: Can they afford not to? According to top business schools, customer relationship management is the most effective and inexpensive way to increase your sales revenue. And by implementing good manners in your business or sales activities, you can substantially increase your chances of being recognized and remembered. The intrinsic solution lies in developing a corporate culture that honors the traditional values of courtesy and respect in every level of communication. These communications do not require budget overhauls; they are merely adjustments in the general attitude and manners used by sales and customer service people, when addressing their public. First, make certain that you are answering your customer's calls with an attitude of welcome. Oftentimes, a phone conversation is the first impression you make on behalf of your organization. Your inflection and tonal qualities convey interest and competence or lack thereof. Don't take liberties by shortening your customer's name or becoming too familiar during the period of gestation, when respect is still being earned. Using the words "thank you," "please," and "you're welcome" liberally in the sales cycles will convey your sincerity in working with your customer and serve to establish a level of respect in your work relationship. Second, make every effort to return customer calls and e-mails in a prompt manner. There is no better way to convey your personal motivation to fulfill their order or request. It is also a sure-fire way to reveal your organizational skills and shows that you prioritize their business among other clientele. Finally, enforce the notion that the customer is always right. If a prospect or customer takes issue with something that occurred in the sales process, make every effort to rectify the error as soon as possible. Undoing the damage sometimes means swallowing your pride, even when you know you are right. Keep the big picture in mind and remember that your career depends on your sales success. If you are able to let your customer win by taking corrective action and providing a reasonable degree of restitution, you will avoid unnecessary negative publicity that can stem from a poor experience. As we continue to replace human interaction with technology in our business transactions, it will be less and less required to interface with our customers. But again, those salespeople with the most business savvy will capitalize from this trend and distinguish themselves as business leaders and communicators. In a business world that is constantly changing, superior sales people will bank on the fact that a smile and a handshake will always go a long way in business. Ryan Florio is president and CEO of Cleveland-based SpecialClient.com, a Web-based company that offers automated client relationship programs as a vehicle for client retention. He may be reached at (216) 598-0934 or e-mail ryan@specialclient.com.
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