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Employee Engagement and the Customer Experience

My stomach lurched. The woman next to me gasped and then held her breath; the man across the aisle from us apologized to his seatmate for dumping a soda in his lap. It was one of the most turbulent flights I have ever experienced. I’ve been on a lot of flights, so that’s saying something.

And I did what I always do in this situation — I watched the flight attendants and listened for the pilot.

Sure enough, the flight attendants were buckled in yet relaxed, chatting pleasantly with each other and nearby passengers. The pilot came on the intercom, and in a wonderfully calm and confident voice, he talked about the turbulent patch we were going through, how long it would last, and how he’d be looking to adjust the route as we went along. Just exactly what I wanted to see and hear.

What Can Lenders Do to Lead Their Employees through the Storm to a Safe Landing?

We have entered a turbulent time in the mortgage industry. The market is changing, staff “repurposing” or layoffs are a reality, the headlines are grim. Your employees are watching you, and they are listening for you. How will you show up for them?

This month, we are digging into the Employee Experience as it is absolutely connected with your Customer Experience.


I heard this quote from Elizabeth Dixon on a podcast recently: “Your customer experience will never exceed your employee experience.” Think about that one for a moment.

The data shows us that employee engagement is at a low level. According to Gallup’s most recent data, only 34 percent of employees are engaged at work — that is one in three. And 73 percent of employees are actively thinking about quitting their jobs, according to a report noted in Business Insider. These kinds of low engagement numbers are often a canary in the coal mine signaling a poor Employee Experience (EX).

Unsurprisingly, survey after survey shows that a focus on EX and employee engagement results in higher revenues, productivity, better talent retention and recruitment, overall business growth and ultimately, happier customers.

Source: © 2021 STRATMOR Group.


With so much turbulence in the air — what should mortgage industry leaders do to ensure a smooth flight for a great employee experience? Here are four key strategies to consider right now.

1. Level Up Your Communications Plan

At the height of the pandemic, leaders were communicating more than normal through a wide variety of channels. But many leaders have eased back on communication — the wrong thing to do.

Calm, clear, consistent communication is a necessity, especially when nerves are frayed. Silence is scary, and communication builds trust, connectivity, and a sense of stability. You don’t need to share everything, but you do need to say something, on a regular basis.

Be intentional: map out your employee communication journey. A communication journey map can be as simple as outlining and calendaring cadence for employee-facing communication on a weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual basis. Also, map what you want to happen in special circumstances where you may want to communicate individually or to a group about positive or negative circumstances. Plan your “ad hoc” outreaches to individual employees to make an impact, or schedule zoom “office hours” to let your team know you’ll be available if they want to stop in.

It’s also a great idea to plan some “surprise and delight” for your employees. Our friends at Mountain West Financial recently did this to celebrate their thirty-second anniversary.

2. Create Focused Time to Listen to Your Team

Understandably, both managers and employees have been so busy the last 24 months and cancelling or delaying one-to-one meetings may feel like a “gift of time” for yourself and your team members. Not so.

One-to-one meetings provide an important opportunity to listen and encourage team members to solve their day-to-day challenges. These meetings also offer a way to give regular recognition and feedback on how employees are performing, how they can improve, and open discussions on their growth path and aspirations. Encourage your direct reports to come prepared with “AOI” — the Accomplishments (not Activities), Objectives, and Issues since your last one-to-one meeting. As a manager or leader, you can bear in mind “RFP,” to remember to offer Recognition, Feedback, and a Path for their career growth moving forward.

One-to-one meetings are a good opportunity to look at the individual’s work/ life balance and determine where flexibility may be needed. Many terrific lenders do not offer a “one size fits all” package but encourage their leaders to offer their team members what they need, when they need it. Guild Mortgage has long excelled in their attention to the work/life balance of their team members, which has gained them repeated recognition as a “Top Workplace.”

3. Share Simple Metrics That Have Meaning

While most lenders track a mass of metrics at a department or regional level, many times these metrics aren’t shared broadly across the company. Consider if there are metrics that can be shared to help keep your team plugged in, informed and united. For employees to feel engaged, work needs to have meaning, and it’s hard to feel like you are a part of the team when you cannot see the scoreboard.

Southwest Airlines, renowned for their exceptional employee experience, says it this way: Happy employees = happy customers = increased business/profits = happy investors (their stock ticker symbol is LUV). I remember hearing a speaker from Southwest years ago who said every single employee knew three items daily: the price of peanuts, the price of fuel, and the number of on-time arrivals. Because each employee owns stock in the company, they care about the things that impact the price of their stock. While no employee at Southwest can do anything to impact the price of peanuts, these common metrics kept the employees united around common talk tracks and common goals.

Unite your team around common metrics and shared goals and be sure to celebrate when your metrics show progress!

Allison Johnston, president of Success Mortgage Partners, recently shared on LinkedIn how they measure and celebrate internal cost savings and efficiencies, by awarding highly coveted “Uni-pigs” to various teams.

Success Mortgage LinkedIn post showing uni-pigs awards.

4. Survey, Solve, Share

Last but most certainly not least, if you are not surveying your employees regularly, you are missing an opportunity. Many companies do annual engagement surveys, which are an excellent way to take the pulse of your organization, identify departments where there may be trouble brewing, or some best practices to adopt. These surveys can be done in-house or outsourced and can be as simple as a Net-Promoter (NPS)-style survey: would you recommend us as a great place to work? Why or why not?

But you might consider more frequent short form or “flash” surveys, particularly to learn about potential friction points within the process or the customer experience. Communicate to your employees that these surveys are meant to give them a platform to share their experiences with the goal of giving them a way to speak up. Solving daily irritations goes a long way towards winning the hearts and minds of your team.

The Customer Experience team at STRATMOR Group stand ready to support you in improving your customer and employees’ experiences. Reach out to us for assistance.

Now, fasten your seatbelts, ensure your seat backs are in the fully upright position, and let’s fly toward a smooth and profitable landing in 2022.


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