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Use CX to Quarterback Your Team to Success in 2022


25 years ago, Tom Brady and I were both taking snaps for our respective high school football teams. One could argue that his career has been a bit more storied than mine, but to be fair, he also “threw in the towel” and retired before me, so I still have time. One thing I’m willing to bet that we still share is that certain sense of wonder that first led us to try out for quarterback, a position unlike any other. Not only does a QB touch the ball on every play, but they are play callers and play makers, inspirational forces and emotional leaders. They are constantly reading the lay of the land and creating opportunities. In short, they affect every player and every part of the game on every play.

In a way, customer experience (CX) is like that. It touches everything. It affects everyone. In fact, the absence of a customer experience strategy could be likened to a quarterback stepping under center and simply hoping for the best without having called a play. As we roll into Super Bowl weekend, maybe there are a few things we can learn from the great American pastime about how to “win” in the mortgage industry this year. Our question this month: How can lenders use customer experience to quarterback their teams to victory in 2022?

Use CX to Quarterback Your Team

A tactical forecast for mortgage marketing in 2022 predicts that lenders will focus on four major tactics to win business, serve borrowers and maintain profitability. These four tactics are:

  • Increase sales and marketing productivity – more offense
  • Increase borrower retention – better defense
  • Increase real estate agent and builder referrals – more fan support
  • Make more efficient use of originator time through use of technology – better equipment

This is a quality list, if not a little ambitious. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that it seems to be missing that “touch everything” element of a customer experience strategy. What is often difficult for lenders about naming CX as a main investment initiative is that it has historically been tough to measure, and therefore tough to incorporate into a game plan. The very fact that it touches everything makes it hard to pin down in an ROI model. In many ways, it’s an intangible, but woe to those who discard intangibles. Imagine the 2021 Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers without the intangibles that Tom Brady brought to the team – the confidence, the mental toughness, the winning spirit, the calm under pressure, and the ability to read the field and make snap-decisions. Don’t underestimate intangibles.

According to a November 2021 survey of nearly 70 mortgage and banking leaders, more than 90 percent said their organization was prioritizing “increasing productivity across sales and marketing” to achieve growth in 2022. That’s great, but it’s also a little like a football team saying they’re prioritizing “scoring more points” in the coming season.

The Diagnosis

There’s an old sports saying, “Football games are won at the line of scrimmage.” In other words, you can have all the fancy plans and strategies you want, but the real battle is won or lost in the trenches, where players get their hands dirty, and muscle, stamina and sheer will get the job done. What does that mean for the mortgage world? We must realize that all the fancy new tech tools, inspirational mouse pads, and marketing spend won’t amount to a lot of scores if you can’t motivate your “in-the-trenches” staff (that’s loan officers and processors, mainly) to make the extra effort to delight customers.

So, how do you motivate loan officers and processors to provide higher levels of customer experience? That’s the million-dollar question.

Start by making the intangibles…tangible. It’s impossible to measure the preparation, the mental quickness or field vision that allow Tom Brady to make a perfect throw, but you can measure the touchdowns those throws produce, as well as the delight of the fans after each one. Measuring the effects is the first step to better understanding the drivers. How much more delighted are borrowers (i.e., how does borrower satisfaction and NPS change) when they receive an initial document checklist vs. when they don’t, when they understand fees vs. when they don’t, when they are given proactive loan updates vs. when they aren’t. It starts with in-depth data collection on the borrower experience – but it certainly doesn’t end there.

If you want to motivate your team members to deliver higher levels of customer experience, you must learn to speak their unique motivational language.

Reality check: We recently completed a forecast for unit production for 2022, and we predict that total unit production will drop 37% in 2022. Refinance could in fact drop more than 60%, with a slight increase (1%) in purchase units. In other words, very few lenders are going to help more customers this year – in fact, they are likely to help far fewer customers. In an environment of tightened margins and price wars, there will be a fight for every deal and the scrappiest fighters – those who foster the deepest relationships, have the most consistent follow-up, and deliver the most delightful overall experience – will come out the winners.  And if you are going to have fewer opportunities this year – fewer opportunities to score – you had better make the best of every one.

Loan officers, for example, have four main motivational triggers:

  1. Compensation
  2. Competition
  3. Recognition
  4. Reprimand

The primary concerns of most LOs are sourcing their next loan, winning their next testimonial, and cashing their next paycheck. How does a concern for CX fit into all that? It’s tricky, because a large number of LOs believe that the customers’ high view of them personally will translate to referral business (spoiler alert, a high LO rating or even a glowing testimonial are both poor predictors of referrals). Other LOs may perceive in-depth customer feedback about the loan process as unwanted oversight.

Speaking the language of “motivation by compensation” can have a few looks when it comes to CX:

  • Tie spiffs, bonuses or rewards trips to minimum NPS score or minimum response rates
  • Issue Amazon gift cards to top CX performers
  • Allocate “steak dinner” award for entire branch or team with highest NPS or Satisfaction

Competition
Show me a competitive person and I’ll show you a quality LO recruit. The two go hand in hand. It’s in their nature, and if it’s not, they’re not long for the job. Lenders have long played on LOs’ competitive nature with rewards trips and volume rankings, but that’s almost always based on quantitative (production) metrics, not on qualitative (CX) metrics. Flip that script and start turning up the competitive heat with some of these ideas:

Company CX Rankings – every employee ranked with a number for personal satisfaction and NPS scores, number of “perfect” loans (those with no critical errors), number of reported problems, response rates.
Heat maps – charts showing critical errors, segmenting (by color) the best performers and worst offenders.

Recognition
Loan officers thrive on recognition almost as much as they thrive on competition. The beautiful thing about both is that they cost the lender next to nothing. Praising an LO for exceptional CX service levels can look like this:

  • CX Employee of the Month – maybe recognize one LO for every branch. And why stop there? How about Branch of the Month? Region of the Month? Most improved?
  • Badges – a badge in an email signature is point of pride for an LO. It really means something – even more than a trophy on a desk, because it’s there for the world to see every time they type an email.
  • Shout-outs from senior management – all it costs is a few minutes per week for an executive level leader to read some testimonials and reach out directly to the LO involved to congratulate them.

Reprimand 
When all else fails, there is always the performance review. This tends to be the least effective because the higher-producing LOs feel “above it” and the managers of those LOs don’t want to rock the boat with too much criticism. That said, STRATMOR has found CX-focused LO Scorecards to have a highly motivating effect when used correctly.

When managers present scorecards to LOs as a means of identifying blind spots that are hindering referral business, LOs perk up. When you add a ranking/competition element to them, LOs may even start asking for them. Just make sure the cards are short and sweet!

What’s a Lender to Do?

Here are three customer experience “play calls” that you can make today to ensure you’re leading your team to success in 2022:

  1. Gamify CX. Allocate a few hundred-dollar gift cards (or a few grand for dinner) per month for top-performing LOs or the top team in each region.
  2. Heat things up. Give everyone a monthly or quarterly heat map of their CX performance in key areas. If they’re below the 50 percent line (show in red), you’d better believe they’ll soon self-correct course.
  3. Recognize. Use a weekly e-newsletter or personal emails to congratulate a handful of LOs each week on outstanding service and glowing testimonials. They won’t soon forget!

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.

To find additional articles on the customer experience, click here.

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