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This past weekend, I found myself eating a melting protein bar in a hot, crowded, outdoor venue that smelled vaguely of barnyard animals and manure. None of these things, as you might guess, would fall into my ideal description of a “good time.” And yet, it was one of my happiest memories of the past few years. We were at the L.A. Zoo, celebrating my daughter’s second birthday, and she was having the time of her life.
I share this because sometimes our relationship with something can look completely different depending on our viewing angle. Think for a moment about your origination partners. Do you see the mortgage brokers that deliver loans to you as an expendable outsourced sales staff? Or are they crucial strategic partners? Could you be missing out on substantial revenue opportunities because you’re viewing the relationship from the wrong angle? Our question this month: How can rethinking the lender-broker relationship create a stronger synergistic partnership and drive more revenue?
The lender-broker relationship has a history of misunderstanding, with mortgage lenders often treating broker partners as mere conduits to sales and broker partners often seeing lenders simply as commodities dealers. The problem with this thinking is that it’s tragically short-sighted. In the absence of strong, deep relationships, a lender is only as good as their latest rate sheet — and if your pricing is not consistently the lowest on the block, you’re in deep trouble.
Broker partners, despite a reputation for shopping rate sheets for the best deal, also rely on emotion when deciding where to send their business. Who can they trust? Who is most reliable and can deliver the most consistent experience? Who communicates proactively? Who is responsive? Who cares about their borrowers? The one thing a loan originator dislikes more than not getting their customer the lowest rate is having to deliver bad news, like “your loan is being delayed” or “the underwriter is asking for more documents AGAIN.” The deeper the relationship, the more likely the loan originator will understand what to expect, and the more reliable the outcomes become. In many cases, that’s more than enough to make up for an eighth or even quarter-point rate difference.
There are new entrants to the wholesale space, and there are companies exiting this tight-margin business. For wholesale lenders hoping to gain market share (or simply survive) in the months ahead, the lender-broker relationship needs to be top of mind. Here are two compelling reasons:
So, what can lenders do to foster deeper relationships with broker partners? Here are a couple ideas that I’ve seen successful lenders employ:
Collect voice-of-partner feedback.
Collecting feedback directly from your strategic partners (this includes mortgage broker partners, referral partners, or even correspondent lending partners) does several things. First, just the act of requesting feedback shows them you care and that you want to deliver high-quality service. Second, it allows you to respond to anyone who is less than thrilled with your service and lets them vent any frustration. Sometimes a good vent-session is all someone needs to feel better. Third, it allows you to identify and address process friction and other pain points, so they don’t continue to cause frustration. Finally, it keeps you in contact with broker partners who may not have sent you a loan for a while. Do you need any more reasons?
Leverage it: Run these surveys twice annually to avoid survey fatigue. Keep them around ten questions or less, but don’t go too short — you still want good data. You’ll likely get a lot of verbatim comments. Use the good ones to share internally with your staff and give recognition where it is due. Use the partner’s constructive criticism to drive process change. Think about creating a quarterly newsletter for all of your partners that shares the actions you’re taking to address concerns that you heard. That could go a long way to establishing trust and confidence that you’re working toward a better future for them.
Collect voice-of-customer feedback.
As outlined above, collecting feedback from partners about how you deliver value to them can be very insightful. But ultimately, it’s providing value to consumers that matters most. I’m often asked about the wisdom (risks and benefits) of surveying borrowers that come in through the Wholesale channel.
Here are a couple specific questions — and the answers I give:
Q: Will brokers be annoyed that you’re reaching out to “their” borrowers?
A: In all the borrower surveys we’ve done for Wholesale lenders we always give brokers the opportunity to opt out of the process. In ten years, and with many thousands of broker partners being offered the opt-out choice, I can still count the number who have opted out on one hand. In other words, they see the value, which is greater transparency of the lender operations and a chance to get a nice testimonial from their borrower.
Q: What good is it to measure a loan officer that doesn’t directly represent your brand?
A: First, they do represent your brand (see above). Wouldn’t you want to know if they’re throwing your fulfillment team under the bus? Or what if your Account Executive (AE) tells you the broker partner is complaining about slow response times or unreasonable document requests? Wouldn’t it be valuable to know if the problems cited by the customer originated with the loan officer versus fulfillment? Surveying the customer helps everyone get the story straight, and it can help you decide which broker partners are worth pursuing for deeper relationships.
There are retention and recapture implications here too, both for the lender and for the broker. If a consumer is not happy with the experience, it makes them less likely to do business with that lender or broker again. Surveying them at the point of onboarding might give both parties the chance to understand and address the situation proactively with a well-timed phone call.
Leverage it: Run these surveys as often (and as close to the closing) as possible, ideally daily based on the loans that closed that day. Share the feedback with AEs so they have reason to reach out to their broker partners with the (hopefully) good news of a shining review and testimonial opportunity. If there is a relationship with the brokerage owner, it’s a great value add to share positive feedback with them about their loan officer. Everyone likes to hear compliments. Internally, leverage the positive feedback with your marketing team to tout world-class service to would-be broker partners to drive more business from existing partners and attract new ones.
Here are three actions you can take immediately to start treating your lender-broker relationships as strategic partnerships:
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