This blog post was contributed by James McCracken, founder of The Successful Adviser.
In today’s fast-paced, consumer-driven society, you could be forgiven if you predicted that online lenders would be enjoying a far greater share of the residential lending marketplace.
But they don’t.
It’s not because their technology isn’t up to scratch or because they can’t provide quick approvals.
In many cases, their technology is exceptional and their turnaround times are excellent.
So it begs the question “why aren’t more people going direct to lenders?”
In part, it’s due to the reputation that brokers have earned by consistently providing a superior client experience and more choice.
And it’s partly due to consumers being far less rational than most would have us think.
Let’s look at it this way.
The online lender’s website might be advising that the customer qualify for a loan, but the reality of ‘ordering’ a loan online for $300,000, $500,000 or $1,000,000, devoid of human contact, is too daunting for many people to bear.
For this type of transaction, most people want the certainty, confidence and comfort of knowing that if they proceed, their application will be approved.
Though they can get this in parts through a website, it just isn’t the same as having an expert giving them the guidance and comfort that they’re after.
It’s on this basis that brokers not only play a pivotal role in organising a client’s application, but can provide the very thing that virtually all online lenders can’t: a superior, personalised experience that engenders loyalty and advocacy for years to come.
You know an exceptional client experience is a prerequisite for clients to become advocates.
And though not all clients who have a great experience will refer, no client who has a poor experience will ever refer, so if your intent is to build a highly referred business, the client experience must be at the heart of your service-delivery model.
So, what are the keys to delivering an exceptional customer experience for mortgage clients?
They focus around the 4 pillars of Competence, Communication, Care and Ease.
As we look at these, if you would like to download the full Client Experience Checklist, you can get that here.
Whether they’re a first homebuyer or a seasoned investor, when push comes to shove, more than anything else, clients care about getting their finance approved. They want that certainty.
They don’t necessarily recognise your ability to structure a deal, but they can quickly discern if you are helping them feel confident through the process.
When judging a broker’s competence, most consumers will say phrases such as:
- Had great product knowledge
- Provided me relevant options
- Was organised
- Got the best deal
- Got me a great rate
Though your actual competence is broader than what consumers give you credit for, in their eyes, they’ll judge you on basic criteria that they can see, hear or feel.
So though your competence likely includes knowing lender policies, thinking outside the square, building lender relationships and not taking ‘no’ for answer, the borrower won’t necessarily see these things – but they do still matter to ultimately delivering the outcome for the client.
But, in the absence of knowing this, most consumers will revert to simple phrases such as those above to determine your competence.
Some would argue that communication is just as important if not more so than competence to give clients the confidence of saying “yes” to you.
Your ability to listen, be relatable, empathetic will help considerably to win the business, and the frequency and quality of your communication through the lending process will win their advocacy.
Though it may not seem apparent, consumers can (and do) judge the quality of communication based on:
- Establishing clear expectations
- Giving them oversight of the process
- Keeping them updated throughout the process
- Responsiveness to their queries
The easiest way to be proactive with your communication is to build it straight into your delivery process. Knowing the major milestones and establishing templates and/or tasks for you and your team to follow will make it easier your client communication to become an integral component of your service delivery model.
Whether it is an email, SMS or phone call, few if any clients will complain about being kept in the loop on a regular basis. However, many clients will silently be disappointed or nervous if they don’t know how their application is progressing.
A couple of pro tips that some brokers build into their model are:
- Advising the client you will update them every Tuesday and Friday (even if the deal hasn’t progressed). That way you will reduce the quantity of enquiries from clients wanting to know where their deal is at
- Send clients an SMS on a Friday night or a Saturday morning if they are still shopping for a home.
Beyond a pre-qualification call and initial client appointment, establishing and managing client expectations, helping them understand timeframes and what happens throughout the process is paramount to a high quality client experience.
Demonstrating care for your clients can change their perception of the experience from transactional to highly personable.
For most brokers, caring for their clients comes naturally as they love actually helping people, and they want to see their clients become better off. And, as a by-product of being caring and personable, clients are far more like likely to want to recommend their broker.
A good litmus test to know if the client had a personable experience is when they offer feedback about this experience with phrases such as:
- Went out of her way
- Genuinely interested in us
- Was very patient
- No question was too much
In addition to caring for the client, it is also important that you care for yourself as well.
In a day and age when some brokers are feeling ‘burnt out’, an important aspect of self-care is establishing boundaries around how you operate.
Instead having a ‘never switch off’ attitude and having the phone attached to your arm 24/7, you will be more effective for your clients, yourself and your loved ones by having down times where you can recuperate and reenergise.
Building a business takes time and burnout can impact your ability to consistently deliver a high quality lending experience if everybody else is always being prioritised before yourself.
The broker channel clearly delivers a host of benefits to clients, with one of those being the degree that you make the process easier for the client than if they were to go direct to a lender.
Just how easy the client believes or feels the process has been will be influenced by the complexity of the deal, but moreover, by the expectations have been established at the start of the process.
You will know the client felt the process was easy when you hear them using phrases such as:
- Gone above and beyond
- Made a difficult situation a lot easier for me
- Stress free, straight forward
Similar to communication, there’s a balancing act with ‘ease’ insofar as clients can get nervous and interpret a request for extra documentation as a sign that the deal might be getting declined.
For that reason, not only is it important to set the scene that an assessor might request additional documents, but also to communicate with them in a way that doesn’t give them reason to worry unnecessarily.
Embracing these 4 pillars as part of your service delivery model can and does make a significant difference to the client advocacy, retention and your ability to operate a more rewarding and referred business.
If you would like the full Customer Experience Checklist so you can deliver a more referable client experience, you can download that here.