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Typing this from 30,000 feet on my fifth flight of the week, I suppose it is only natural that the customer experience of weary travelers is on my mind. And I just had the most extraordinary experience … so please sit back and relax, maybe grab yourself a tiny pack of peanuts to enjoy and come along for the ride.
Airlines are not exactly known for creating outstanding customer experiences, but an airline I frequent (which shall go unnamed) prides itself on creating a great customer experience — and assuredly, they may be the best of the bunch.
But not this time.
Anything that could go wrong did. The flight schedule changed repeatedly, delays weren’t communicated well, gate agents and flight attendants were inattentive at best and quite crabby at worst. Boarding passes wouldn’t scan, catering forgot to load coffee, and there was something sticky on my seat. Needless to say, I was not feeling positive about this particular airline today, despite remaining grateful to be traveling once again.
But 2.5 million miles is good for something, and I decided to access the complimentary lounge on my layover. After a hassle gaining entry, I entered the crowded lounge. What I heard next changed everything. A friendly voice called out, “Hello there, Miss, welcome in – we’re so glad you’re here!” That’s when I met Milo.
For the next 30 minutes, I watched Milo individually greet every person with kindness, a compliment, a friendly question and a warm smile. I am quite sure I wasn’t the only one who had a change of heart about this airline today. So many people — including yours truly — came in a bit crabby and left feeling happy about the experience. Actually, delighted.
What does this have to do with the mortgage business?
It’s all about taking the sentiment or words about creating a vision of excellent customer experience — and putting those words into real action on the front lines, where they really matter.
Jack Welch, former chairman and CEO of GE, once said: “Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.” It’s that last part that trips people up, and not for lack of desire or effort.
Recently, my colleague Mike Seminari met with a group of industry CEOs to talk about “Customer Experience.” He found each was able to articulate their unique expression of a customer experience vision, and each was passionate about it. They just weren’t sure how effective their efforts were in spreading that vision across their entire organizations, or how their front-line teams were sharing their visions with customers.
Vision answers the question, “Why are we doing this?” In a study noted in the Harvard Business Review, only 28 percent of respondents reported feeling fully connected to their company’s vision. It is essential for leadership and loan officers to have alignment on the answer to this question to create a positive and pervasive culture around customer satisfaction.
We all say we want “customers for life.” But what does this mean to your LOs who are more concerned about winning that next purchase deal than the long play of a customer who might move or refinance in five to seven years? A better way to align the vision for leadership and loan officers might be to say, “We want to delight our customers so much that they can’t help telling everyone they know.” Remember Milo — and the fact that I am so delighted, I am writing this article, and if you ask me, I will happily tell you the name of the airline.
Changing culture requires a shared vision as a starting point. Fostering that kind of buy-in across the company means creating awareness and establishing accountability across the organization.
How would you rate company-wide awareness of your Customer Satisfaction and Net Promoter Score (NPS)? This includes everyone from executive leadership to branch managers, to loan officers, processors, underwriters and closers.
“One of our lenders had a loan officer who had no idea that her borrowers were unhappy about being asked for the same documents multiple times because they always seemed happy when she spoke to them,” says Seminari. “Survey results revealed that the problem had occurred in 28 of her last 45 loans, and it was costing her 52 NPS points, which meant a lot of lost referrals.”
Multiply this type of situation across your loan officer base and the detrimental impact of “lack of awareness” looms large.
“If you want loan officers to buy into your vision, they first need to know where the company is, and how they fit into and influence the current state before they can get on board with where you want to go,” says Seminari. “In other words, your customer satisfaction and experience metrics should be visible to all employees, including loan officers, processors, underwriters and closers. We’ve seen whole companies band together to right the ship in these areas, with everyone committing to improvements, but it could not have happened without everyone first understanding the current state.”
Accountability gives managers and loan officers immediate answers to the question, “Why should I care about borrower feedback?” Whether you tie these metrics to compensation or not, holding leadership and loan officers accountable to satisfaction KPIs will encourage good communication, and good habits.
Having visibility of performance versus peers, both internal and external, helps leadership identify key areas of potential growth and set realistic goals for improvement.
Here are three ways to drive your customer experience vision to completion:
And on that note, back to Milo. The very next thing I’ll be typing tonight is a letter to the airline, mentioning him by name, and making a request that they recognize and reward him. In my experience, it wasn’t the company’s vision statement that left an impression. It was the front-line human who lived the vision that made all the difference.
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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