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As we were putting up Christmas decorations this year, I came across a binder filled with Santa letters I had penned as a child in the early 80s, with wish list items over the years ranging from “all the toys” to a much more meager request for “an orange.” Sometimes I got exactly what I asked for, but not always. I remember some of the really special gifts being ones I hadn’t asked for — a football, Legos, new crayons — gifts that Santa somehow knew would delight me anyway. The art of giving, as Santa knew well, is often about knowing the recipient better than they know themselves. And the best gifts are the ones that keep giving beyond the holiday.
This holiday season, a typical mortgage originator’s wish list might read something like this: 1) Lower rates, 2) More client referrals, and 3) New partnerships — a tall order even for Santa! Perhaps lenders can step in and offer the Big Guy a helping hand. Our question this month: What can lenders do to fulfill their loan originators’ (LOs) top three wishes this holiday season?
With ever-thinning pipelines, it’s natural for lenders to shift their focus to reducing costs, leveraging existing technology and streamlining manual operations. These are all worthy pursuits, but a narrow focus on these cost-saving measures runs the risk of neglecting important long-term strategies related to recruitment and retention of good people. If you are currently out of the “danger zone” in terms of closure or mass layoffs, the holidays are a great time to express your commitment to and support for your staff.
And it turns out most lenders want to play Santa for their staff. In a recent STRATMOR workshop, we asked lender executives their own “wish list” for their companies. The number one ranked answer was to “Improve sales effectiveness,” with “Improve customer experience” and “Optimize process/workflow” coming in second and third. To step into the Big Man’s boots, lenders must first consider their employees’ wish list requests, then ultimately pass them through a filter of what will truly bring the most (and most lasting) enjoyment.
What makes a great gift? I propose that it is the giver’s ability to “read” the recipient and anticipate the enjoyment the gift will bring. Added to that is finding a gift with lasting value. For me, the football meant more time with my dad playing catch; the Legos created endless fun with my friends; and the crayons meant countless art projects with my mom and sister. I benefitted from the wisdom of Santa because I couldn’t see the downstream implications (the fun) of those gifts on my own, and therefore, I didn’t know to ask for them.
The same concept can hold true for the relationship between mortgage leadership and originators. What follows is a Lender’s Guide to Giving, with a focus on the top three LO wish list items this season:
The Wish: Lower Rates
The Perfect Gift: Give them tools that provide insulation against inevitable cyclical market changes. While lower rates, or even price exceptions, might sound really enticing to LOs who saw their pipelines slowly disappear in 2022, these remedies would only provide short-term relief. Instead, help stack the odds in their favor for the next time refinance loans go away.
A few ideas you might consider:
The Wish: More Client Referrals
The Perfect Gift: This one is a little counterintuitive. You might think the best way to boost client referrals is to give your LOs top-of-the-line reputation management tools that will amplify the voice of delighted customers to the furthest reaches of the internet. Lots of five-star ratings equals lots of new leads, right? Not exactly. STRATMOR data shows that although LOs perceive testimonials as a huge lift to their business, borrowers are very seldom finding a lender that way. Only two percent of borrowers cite online testimonials as the reason they choose their lender. On the other hand, nearly 90 percent cite an existing relationship or a referral. Online testimonials certainly help many borrowers finalize their decision (i.e., pull-through) but they are rarely the source of the loan.
The surest way to boost client referrals for your LOs is to create an end-to-end delightful customer experience that produces raving fans. A raving fan, by the way, is a person who is so pleased that they will not shut up about you. Actual word of mouth from a trusted source, it turns out, is much more powerful than words on a computer screen from an unknown entity.
So, how do you create a delightful process? It’s not as daunting as it sounds. You just need to help the borrower avoid pain. Start by identifying the most painful parts of the loan process, then monitor the borrower through mid-process and post-close surveys and finally, provide monthly scorecards for your originators, processors and leadership showing a clear path to improvement. Add some competition and recognition and you’ll be setting your team up for more and more raving fans and client referrals with each passing month. If this sounds like a lot of moving parts, STRATMOR’s MortgageCX program may be able to help. Feel free to call me for a consultation.
The Wish: New Referral Partnerships
The Perfect Gift: Trying to convince your LOs to prospect new referral partnerships can be like pulling teeth and mandating can make it even worse — not exactly the “gift” they’re looking for. Instead, try giving them tools that make it easier to identify and reach out to new referral partner prospects. For example, start collecting surveys from the real estate agents involved in purchase loans, which LOs can use as a reason to reach out and thank them. Similarly, collect a rating and testimonial from the borrower about their agent on a purchase transaction. If the originator doesn’t know the agent, it’s a great way to forge a new relationship. And if they do, it’s a great way to continue to add value through “good feels.”
Here is your upgraded “LO Wish List” for this season…now go play Santa!
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