There is no question that in today’s ultra-competitive market, it is paramount to the success of a broker that they partner with lenders that place customer service at the forefront of their business models. Brokers need an arsenal of different tools and services to make them successful and help grow their business. Those lenders that are dedicated to growing a network of quality brokers have made investments and have taken significant measures to make service the number one priority. And, brokers who are truly committed to providing excellent service to borrowers seek out lenders that strive to provide the same service levels that they do.
Now, more than ever, wholesale lenders know customer service is key, but to varying degrees. Good service is something that all lenders want to provide; some are great at it, okay at it and subpar or bad at it. So, what should brokers look for in a wholesale lender with great customer service? Before you start doing business with a lender and run the risk of a bad experience and possibly losing deals, make a checklist of different buckets that you feel would help your business be more successful.
Responsiveness and communication
How responsive is the lender’s overall customer service? Ask them how accessible their underwriters and processors are. Are their account executives always prepared to meet your needs? What are their average turn times? They should obviously be rapid. How long to fund the loan? The representations you make to your customers in terms of their expectations is very important, and can reflect poorly on you if they aren’t met. Peel back the onion and ask for documented statistics.
Educational and training support
Today’s marketplace is highly fluid and ever-changing. To stay on top of their game, brokers must be knowledgeable and up-to-speed on industry happenings that can impact their business—both positively and negatively. Without keen insight, you cannot provide good, accurate advice to your customers. Not many lenders offer educational services to brokers that help them stay abreast of key things such as new government assisted programs, regulatory concerns and compliance adherence, marketing strategies, selling tips, technology usage, general industry issues and more. A lender that is committed to continually educating its brokers should offer valuable tools like Webinars and training sessions, and have knowledgeable account executives who are eager to answer your questions. It is in the lender’s best interest to provide educational options that will support your success. Ask what they offer.
The technology tools a lender provides makes all the difference. Providing a feature-rich Web portal to brokers is a must. A good broker-facing portal should be able to instantly return an accurate decision and price and along with the option to lock rates. Can multiple programs all be returned at once with the click of a mouse? Key features should include an online 1003, pipeline management, file tracking, conditions oversight, real-time status views, document uploads, appraisal ordering, e-signing, ease of communication with the back-office and integrations with the broker’s LOS. In addition, these same tools should be available on smartphone and tablets for brokers to conveniently access in the field. Ask to get a walk-through of their broker portal by an account executive.
There will always be fires and various matters that need immediate attention. What are the lender’s response time and resolution time? Are they organized in terms of getting you to the right person who can quickly address the problem and provide a remedy for it? You need a responsive lender that can quickly react to your needs. Can you always reach a live person? Accessibility is a necessity when you need immediate answers. Do your research. Ask around and do not hesitate to contact a lender to see how they can best service your needs.
Excellence in customer service starts with the culture the lender fosters. Lenders that have a “service-first culture” and mantra throughout the company means that their employees have a solid understanding of the commitment they must make so customers feel valued and treated as a priority. Sure, you’ll hear many of the same marketing messages from lenders that purport to be service-oriented, but are they really? How do you know? Ask what the company’s mission and vision is and how they are organized.
What are other brokers saying about the lender’s service levels? Do your homework. There are plenty of blogs, discussion boards, LinkedIn groups, etc. that openly share information—both good and bad. Use social media and the Web to dig up research before signing up to be a new broker. Additionally, look for testimonials from other brokers on the lender’s Web site. If brokers love the service that is provided, they’ll gladly offer testimonials and the lender will want to aptly display them on their Web site, literature, advertising, etc.
The rate of a lender’s expansion in the wholesale arena can be telling as to its level of customer service. In this market, it’s difficult for lenders to grow unless they’re taking good care of their most valued asset—their customers. Look around the Web for statistics, media coverage, articles, press releases, etc. that give you a sense of their growth rate and progression. If the company shows solid growth in the marketplace and has positive industry perceptions behind their corporate brand, there’s a reason for that. Finding those lenders that offer the “above type” of benefits can be challenging in this highly fluid market. To put lender differences into perspective, create a comparison matrix of the companies you are considering doing business with and it will help you decide.
Brokers are able to offer more product and pricing options than retail loan officers can. You have an excellent opportunity to capitalize on being more solution-oriented in working with borrowers. It’s how well you market yourself, the knowledge you have when dealing with borrowers, and the level of service you are able to provide, which is only as good as the trusted go-to lenders you have developed relationships with.
Customer service is king. Your lender(s) of choice should be intensely focused on ways to provide a very positive experience in dealing with them that keeps you coming back. Lenders that are truly committed to a service-focused culture fully grasp that nurturing strong broker relationships determines their long-term sustainability and success. In this market, lenders live and die by the customer service sword. Your lender’s success is your success. Don’t settle for mediocrity. Partner with a lender that provides you with the tools and service that make you their number one priority. Those originators that cannot provide high levels of service and responsiveness to borrowers are at a competitive disadvantage to those that can.
Mat Ishbia is president of Michigan-based United Wholesale Mortgage (UWM), a fast-growing lender dedicated to the wholesale channel with a companywide emphasis on customer service. He can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]