How Can You Move From Chaos to Order in Your CX Strategy?

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Move over Rocket Mortgage (formerly Quicken): there’s a new customer experience sheriff in town and its name is Guild Mortgage! The last several years have played like an old-fashioned duel between the two companies, who have consistently taken the top two spots on the J.D. Power Annual Origination Satisfaction Study. But after 11 straight trophies, “Quick Draw Quicken” was not quick enough to claim the highest honors in 2021, bested by their consummate California rival. How did Guild do it? How did they contend with Rocket’s huge marketing budget and slick online tools and come out on top? Simply put, they tamed the wildness that is Customer Experience. Just like Wyatt Earp and his band of lawmen in the classic movie, “Tombstone,” they brought order to chaos. Our question this month: How can lenders bring order to chaos to create an award-winning CX strategy?

Moving From Chaos to Order in CX

Ever since Customer Experience (CX) became a major focal point of American business strategy in the early 2000s with the rise of Net Promoter Score (NPS) and Amazon star-ratings, the mortgage industry’s approach has been a bit like the Wild West, with every lender living by their own code, trying to do what’s right, but not really following any set standard or rule of CX law. When it comes to deciding between NPS and Overall Satisfaction, short surveys or long ones, or the importance of a customer testimonial, no two lenders seem to quite see eye to eye.

This lack of agreement on a methodical approach has led to customer experience being relegated to more of a “nice ideal to strive for” rather than a “documented strategy to execute.”  Add to that the difficulty many lenders have in tying ROI directly to customer experience metrics, and you have a concept that is widely supported with lip-service i.e., customers first – but that has little “teeth” as a resource-backed, executable company initiative.

There are some companies who have connected the ROI dots and documented a methodical approach. They have created awareness and accountability across their organizations around customer experience metrics, setting themselves up for long-term success. Once refinance business dries up and margins shrink, price wars will intensify. Lenders who compete on price alone will quickly fall by the wayside, sacrificing business to competitors with a superior customer experience. CX is the new battlefield. Would you rather head into battle with a “nice ideal to strive for” or a “clearly defined battle strategy?”

The Diagnosis

Bringing order to chaos in a customer experience strategy requires three critical components: thoughtful intention, strategic planning, and willful action.

Thoughtful intention begins with an unwavering commitment to exceptional customer experience at the executive level. Effective leaders not only cast a compelling company CX vision, but also invest in the right people and tools to bring it to life. Guild is a classic example of this intentionality, with CEO Mary Ann McGarry’s mantra of “customers for life” infused into every process, policy, and internal conversation at Guild. Guild has also been a longtime participant in the MortgageSAT program, an investment that allows them to gain deep, ongoing insights into their customer experience.

Strategic planning is about taking your customer experience vision and laying out a roadmap to get there. It needs to be well-defined and executable, which may require trading in your “compass” for a “GPS device.” In other words, you’re not just trying to head in a general direction; you need turn-by-turn instructions, road conditions, and traffic alerts. A National Benchmark, the most prominent of which in the mortgage industry would be J.D. Power’s annual study or MortgageSAT’s ongoing benchmarking data, can provide the context you need to set concrete CX goals. Not only does a benchmark show where you stack up against other lenders, but it also provides context around economic and social drivers, often telling a completely different story than your own isolated historical data. The ability to identify and pursue your biggest growth opportunities – the low-hanging fruit that can most quickly and easily be attained – is crucial to a successful CX strategy, and it’s something that Guild has perfected in the past several years.

Willful action is the hardest, but it is the most important component and is unsurprisingly the rarest amongst lenders today. You can craft a company vision in five minutes, sign a contract to invest in great CX measurement tools and benchmarking in a matter of weeks, but taking the actionable data and putting it into action requires cultural commitment and buy-in from all employees, not just executive leadership. Again, Guild has done a tremendous job creating awareness and accountability around customer experience metrics, to the point that it’s now become part of the company’s cultural DNA.    

The Prescription

Here are a few quick tips for bringing order to chaos when it comes to your CX strategy:

  1. Find your unique “CX signature.” Before you can craft a company CX vision, you need to really understand your customer journey and what makes it unique compared to other lenders. We call that your “CX signature.” Journey mapping exercises are an integral part of this discovery, helping you understand the places throughout the customer experience where borrowers can either become delighted or disgruntled. In short, what makes you stand out? That will inform everything else. One thing about Guild: they were never trying to be the next Quicken, but rather the best Guild.    
  2. Let that inform the data you collect. The last journey mapping exercise I did with a client had roughly 30 pivot points where a customer could go from the so-called “happy path” to an “unhappy path.” These weren’t necessarily touch points with the lender; sometimes they identified negative space where the lender fell silent. Knowing these potential pivot points should inform the type of feedback you collect from your borrowers. This is where ultra-short surveys with free-form responses can fall short, since it’s nearly impossible to aggregate and collate mountains of verbatim responses into a clear, actionable format, even with advanced text analytics.
  3.  Create awareness and positive reinforcement. Cultural change isn’t easy, but then again if it was, every company would be vying for the top spot on the J.D. Power rankings. Great culture comes down to clear leadership vision and direction, commitment to (and investment in) quality people and tools, and reinforcement of these things through empowerment, recognition, and rewards. A great first step on this path is to begin to create awareness around CX metrics through dashboards, contests, and shout-outs in company newsletters.
  4. Balance digital convenience with personal touch. This is a Guild sweet spot, with tools and processes that have been carefully curated over time:

“For many years, we have been working to build long-term relationships and to create the right mix of digital tools and personal, individualized customer service with our loan officers in communities and neighborhoods.”

—Mary Ann McGarry, CEO, Guild Mortgage

Employees are motived to provide exceptional service when you remove friction from their lives with effective digital tools, from those that help automate document collection and testimonial sharing to those that assist in making the borrowing experience more personal and memorable. As always, STRATMOR can help with vendor selection and implementation, as well as facilitate change management to ensure buy-in and adoption.

How can you learn more about creating a better customer experience and about how the customer experience impacts your company?

Find out more about STRATMOR Group’s CX services and how transparency into the loan process can help your company. Contact Mike Seminari at mike.seminari@stratmorgroup.com.

To see how improving your NPS score translates into real revenue dollars, give Mike a call.

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