The phone rings and Customer A is on the other end asking you for some information. She needs help making an educated decision regarding the financing of a home she wants to purchase. It’s an out-of-the-blue call and you’re caught off guard. In fact, the timing of her call couldn’t be worse. You just dropped your donut on the carpet and you forgot to get a sugar packet for your coffee when you were in the kitchen. As a result, you don’t pay much attention to the detail of her needs. You have more important things to do (like brushing the white frosting off your leg), so you take down her name and number and promise “someone” will get back to her with some numbers “in a little bit.” You hang up and press the sticky note to your computer monitor along with six or seven others from last week.
Two days later you notice the note while reading an email, and you call Customer A back. She thanks you for the call but tells you that she’s found someone else who will be over that night with some paperwork for her to sign. Out of curiosity you ask her to remind you what she was looking for. Financing for a home she is purchasing, she reminds you. The purchase price: a modest $350,000. Oh, and by the way, she’s a human resources manager who is responsible for helping her company’s 200-plus employees relocate to your area. You wish you had never asked...
No business can survive without customers.
That’s obvious, right? And, if you’re like most business people, you accept the truisms, “The customer is always right” and “The customer comes first.” Yet, despite what seems to be a given, many people in the mortgage business still underestimate the importance and long-term value of customer relationships. What’s even more surprising is that many mortgage professionals also fail to understand that both their job security and the success of their business are directly linked to customer relationships — specifically, how their customers feel about the experience of doing business with them.
Have you ever seen an employee erupt into a storm of defensiveness when a conversation with a customer wasn’t going the way he or she had intended? Maybe you’ve been that employee. Have you ever received negative feedback from a client on your performance and immediately rejected it? Maybe not outwardly, but inside you felt wronged. If either is true of you, you’re not alone. We’ve all been through these scenarios at one time or another. But what separates achievers from mediocre mortgage professionals is that achievers have learned they can’t afford to lose customers, regardless of the circumstances of the relationship. As a result, they take whatever steps are necessary to secure the loyalty of every customer with whom they come in contact — even if only on the phone.
Author John Sewell said, “You can shear a sheep for many years, but you may skin it only once.”
In other words, you can’t afford to rub a customer the wrong way, which, unfortunately, is something the mortgage industry has become very good at doing. According to a recent article in USA Today, the mortgage industry is one of fastest growing “complaint industries” in America. And according to the Mortgage Guaranty Insurance Company, only 1 in 4 customers return to the lender they used on their previous mortgage, largely due, I might add, to the experience.
But undesirable outcomes with your clients can easily be avoided. Whether you’re an assistant, originator, manager, or owner you must master the art of building and maintaining strong customer relationships. Your success and job security depend on it.
By making the following four strategies part of your mission statement, you will ensure that your customers remain loyal for life.
STRATEGY #1: “LIFETIME” YOUR CUSTOMERS.
A car buyer can have a lifetime value of $300,000 to a car dealership. Someone who buys food from a grocery store can have a lifetime value of over $350,000 to the storeowner. What could your customers be worth to you over the long haul? Take time this week to calculate the monetary value of a single customer if that person remained loyal to your business over a lifetime. Share that number with your employees if you’re a business owner. If you’re part of a mortgage team, share the number with your teammates. Once you and your team understand the long-term value of a single customer, make it your goal to realize that value in every customer.
STRATEGY #2: UNDERPROMISE; OVERDELIVER.
Customers keep coming back when they know you will exceed their expectations. In fact, strive to make their experience in doing business with you a “non-event.” Here’s the rule: Give it to them faster and for less money than they expected. Add true value. Most mortgage businesses do it backwards: They promise fast service but deliver slow, and quote less but charge more. If you hold fast to this strategy in every transaction, you will set yourselves apart from the competition and significantly decrease the likelihood that your customers will “try someone else” next time around.
STRATEGY #3: BEFORE THEY PAY, SURVEY.
Don’t wait until after your customers have conducted their business with you to ask how you did. That’s too late. Ask them for their feedback before the transaction is complete. That way if there are any issues you’ve overlooked, you have an opportunity to correct them while the customer is still yours. In doing so, you will do your best to remove any chance for your customers to leave unsatisfied.
STRATEGY #4: DON’T RELEASE THEM, RECOVER THEM.
When your performance delivers less than a customer expects, do something about it — recover. Despite all your efforts to ensure that a customer doesn’t leave you unsatisfied, there will be times when a mistake or misunderstanding slips through. If you want your business to thrive you must make a point to recover those customers before they take their business elsewhere. Let them know — with a letter or a phone call — that you value their business. Apologize for not meeting their needs and offer them a tangible solution for providing better service next time. This may mean refunding them some money or offering them a discount for your next transaction. If you’re looking at the overall value that a single customer can bring, you won’t have a problem making a little less money in your first transaction to keep a customer for the long-haul.
Theodore Roosevelt wisely noted, “The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.”
Nothing is truer for mortgage professionals. Building loyal, lifetime customers starts from day one and continues the entire life of the relationship. Commit today to make the four strategies part of your business’ mission so that you not only receive full value from your existing customers, you also receive added value from the new customers that are referred to you.