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When the movie “The Hunger Games” came out back in 2012, I remember thinking to myself, “This is very intriguing. A winner-takes-all, life-and-death game of survival strategy.”
Little did I know, the mortgage industry would find itself in its own version of these games about a decade later. In the movie, the protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, begins the competition by hiding out from the others, but soon realizes that it’s not a viable long-term strategy. In a major turning point, she decides to start proactively taking steps towards victory. And, spoiler alert, she wins!
Lenders today are confronted with this same difficult choice of protective vs. proactive strategy. You won’t survive if you don’t stop the bleeding, but you can’t ultimately use tourniquets to forge a path to victory. And timing is everything. There’s a time to hunker down and a time to bravely move forward. Our question this month: When is the right time to step out of self-preservation mode and toward long-term victory with culture and customer experience?
With the recent news of revenue freefall and mass layoffs in the mortgage industry, it’s hard for most of us to focus on anything but survival right now. I hear about some lenders going through their vendor contracts and cutting anything that isn’t directly tied to producing the widget that is the mortgage loan. Self-preservation is a powerful force, and rightly so.
Mismanagement of cash flow has felled more than a few lenders over the years. Lessons have been learned. Case studies have been scrutinized. Just being “in the game” today says you’ve done a lot of things right as a lender. You’ve weathered previous down markets, you’ve avoided being sunk by margin calls, you’ve been able to attract and retain high-producing originators. And you’re still standing. Kudos.
Now for some tough love. Not every lender is feeling the same amount of pain right now. I’ve spoke to a handful of lenders who are not only surviving but are inching forward. The one thing these lenders have in common is a long-term commitment to providing a best-in-class customer experience.
In my experience discussing the finer points of Customer Experience (CX) with mortgage lenders, I’ve come to know this as certainty: there are talkers and there are doers. Every leader at every company will agree that customer experience is of great importance, but the “talkers” are always either too busy or too cash-poor to invest time and resources into building out a CX strategy. Long-term planning and goals are like that — it’s almost never going to be comfortable trying to get the momentum going around a an intention CX strategy. It will certainly cost both time and money, so whether you’re in a booming market (no time) or a constricted one (no money), you can’t really avoid feeling some pain on the path to CX excellence. The companies I mentioned earlier all went through this pain, but it’s now paying off in a big way with less cutbacks, less layoffs, and more ability to focus on future growth.
So, what is the right time to make your move? I think it goes without saying that you need to take care of keeping the doors open as a matter of priority, but once you have that proverbial tourniquet set and have a clear path to survival in sight, you can begin to make some strategic moves to lay the foundation for a long-term winning CX strategy. And like Katniss with her trusty bow and arrow, sometimes the most effective tools are the old school ones deployed in new or creative ways. Here are a few ideas for thinking with a long-term winning mindset that you can start right now:
In an environment where any suggestion for “new” spending will likely be frowned upon (if not laughed at), look first to replacing existing expenditures with similar ones that will provide more “bang for the buck.” One example of this could be your post-close survey and social proof mechanisms. According to STRATMOR’s most recent Technology Insight® Study, about 8 in 10 lenders are employing some type of post-close survey to learn how to serve their clients better and 4 in 10 are also paying for help with social proof (i.e., online reviews and testimonials). Find out how much you’re paying on an annual basis for these two services and see if you might be able to replace them with a service like STRATMOR’s MortgageCX. Not only would you receive deep insights and top-of-the-line social proof tools, but you would also start receiving highly motivational monthly scorecards for your originators and processing staff. And you might even save some cash before all is said and done.
Making moves to support a long-term CX strategy doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Around STRATMOR, you’ll often hear the phrase, “Data is king.” Without it, you’re just grasping at straws with strategic planning. Think about collecting data incrementally, in small chunks, that will begin to build a historical and actionable case for change. Along these lines, secret shopping is one of the first things STRATMOR recommends as part of our CX Audit services, and it can be done relatively inexpensively compared to other projects like technology installations or personnel reorganization. Secret shopping will give you level-setting information about how customers perceive you, not just how you perceive yourself. It’s also a great first step towards journey mapping, another area where STRATMOR experts can assist.
Become a CX Expert
To quote Donald Rumsfeld, “We don’t know what we don’t know.” There has been a great deal of data gathered around the customer experience since the idea became a front-and-center topic about a decade ago. STRATMOR has collected more than one million borrower surveys in the mortgage industry during that time, which has led to some incontrovertible evidence about which drivers have the greatest impact on customer loyalty and advocacy. If you want to learn about what those are, as well as where your own low-hanging fruit might be, a valuable first step is to attend one of STRATMOR’s bi-annual Customer Experience Workshops. Not only will you come away with an education in all things CX, but you’ll get to share ideas with peers who have similar aspirations of CX excellence.
Here are three low-cost, high impact things you can do today to start moving down the path toward a winning CX strategy:
Find out more about STRATMOR Group’s CX services and how transparency into the loan process can help your company. Contact Mike Seminari at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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