Satisfied Customers Are Not Enough

Follow these steps and you will surpass your borrowers’ expectations.

As a consumer, you are a customer. In the course of a normal week you might buy gas, shop for groceries, sign up for a new cellular phone service, or purchase a sandwich at a deli. At each buying event, you become one of three types of customers: dissatisfied, satisfied, or extremely satisfied. The experience you have determines whether you will return again and/or recommend that company to others.

As a mortgage originator, you have customers. In the course of a normal week you might deal with a rate shopper, pre-qualify a prospect, take a loan application, make a sales call, or attend a closing. At each encounter, you create customers who are either dissatisfied with you, satisfied with you, or extremely satisfied with you. Your entire business and livelihood depends on what type of customers you create.

It is obvious that none of us want dissatisfied customers. We know that dissatisfied customers either don’t buy from us, or if they do, don’t come back. We also know that dissatisfied customers talk, and if they have a negative experience with us or with our company, what they say can damage both our reputation and our business. A recent consumer research study showed that 92 percent of customers who say they were dissatisfied with a company or buying experience will never be heard from again.

Most companies, and for that matter most mortgage loan originators, shoot for “satisfied” customers. They feel that if they can get a borrower from application through closing with a minimum amount of problems, life is good. If the post-closing customer survey is returned with the word “satisfied” circled, they feel they have done their job. The fact is they have failed. Statistics say that two out of every three consumers who say they were just “satisfied” with a company will never return. In the customer’s mind, they expected to be satisfied. You have done nothing special or memorable. All you have done is met their expectations, and you’ll never see two out of three of these borrowers again.

So what does it take to get a customer back for their next refinance or purchase loan? What is required to secure an endorsement to their family or friends? Nothing less than extremely satisfied customers. The vast majority of people will not return or refer companies where they did not experience an extremely satisfied buying event. Research shows that of consumers who rate their reaction to a company as “extremely satisfied” 85 percent will return again or recommend at least one other person who will buy from you. Think about yourself as a customer. What restaurants do you recommend to a friend? One that you feel okay about or one where you had a great dining experience and know they will too? Do you return to hotels or vacation resorts where you would say you had a “good” experience or a “great” experience? We are all customers in one way or another, and we frequent and recommend services and companies where we are more than satisfied with what we get.

Many years ago I remember working with a sizable group of young loan originator recruits at an office of a large mortgage company. I told them that their mission was to get to the point in their careers where they would never have to prospect for business again. The four step plan was to:

  1. Build a strong base of great referral clients (Realtors, builders, and others.)
  2. Provide an incredibly positive experience with every borrower.
  3. Ask every borrower for referrals.
  4. Keep in touch with borrowers down the road so they would remember them, come back, and refer their friends.

Correctly followed, this plan would ensure that in three to five years, these originators would have built such a loyal following of customers that they would be done prospecting for life. No more sales calls, no more donut deliveries to real estate offices. In five years, they would have an army of extremely satisfied customers that sold for them. Like a pyramid scheme, this base of customers would potentially double every year. Unfortunately, most of these loan officers didn’t follow the plan. They chased down deals, got them processed and closed, refrained from doing anything special, and created “satisfied” customers. Most of them are long gone by now. Those still in business today most likely continue to beat the street every day looking for their next deal.

One originator took the plan to heart. He bought into the “wow factor” of customer service. He tried to make each borrower experience special. He made personal follow-up phone calls. He sent out handwritten thank-you cards. He showed up at closings with gift baskets. He so impressed every borrower that within just a few years he had hundreds of people out selling for him. The last time I saw him, about three years ago, he was still in the business, as one of his company’s top producers, and making a fortune. He told me he doesn’t prospect much anymore. He doesn’t have to.

So if we know that 85 percent of extremely satisfied customers will be a continual stream of referrals, loans and income, why doesn’t every originator try to create them? The answer may be one or more of the following:

  1. I don’t have time.
  2. I think it’s unnecessary.
  3. I don’t know how.

Let’s tackle these one at a time.
I don’t have time. The fact is you do have the time. As Steven Covey, author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” states: “We always will find the time to do the things we feel are important.” Chances are you work 40 to 60 hours a week. You have plenty of time for a personal follow-up call (one minute) or to write a thank you note (two minutes) or stop by a closing (30 minutes). You choose not to do these things because (and this may sting a little) you don’t think these things are important. Some originators are so busy chasing down loans and putting out fires, great customer service takes a back seat to their busy work. The fact is you don’t have time not to provide great service! Perhaps if more of your customers were “extremely satisfied” you wouldn’t have to be out prospecting so much, giving you the time to take great care of all the referrals they are sending you.

I think it’s unnecessary. Some loan originators think they are above giving great service. They feel the customer owes them, not the other way around. The concepts of a personal phone call to a new buyer asking how they are enjoying their new house or a Christmas card to the family are for someone else. That’s too bad, because these originators are missing the point. As a test, think about when you are a customer. Think about a time someone went out of his or her way to ensure you had a great buying experience. How did you react? Did you think it was corny, silly or unnecessary? No! Did you feel it was unprofessional? Certainly not! You loved it. That’s how your customers would feel if you started providing them with an extremely satisfying experience too.

I don’t know how. Perhaps you are into great customer service but are unsure of what you can do to create the “wow factor.” First, remember that the wow factor isn’t created with one big thing, but often a multiple of little things. A great experience at a restaurant is the product of an attentive valet, a welcoming hostess, a knowledgeable and helpful waiter, a clean dining environment, and a wonderful chef. To create a similar great experience in your business, ask yourself: “If I was a borrower, what would really impress me? What would a loan officer or mortgage lender do that would make me one of their raving fans?” Draft a list of what you would like to experience, and that’s probably what your customers want as well. Once you have your “total customer experience” mapped out, integrate those actions and little touches into your system. For example:

  • Thank you for applying card goes out 24 hours after application
  • Personal welcome call from the loan processor is made in 48 hours
  • Gift basket sent to place of employment on day of approval
  • Congratulations card mailed one day after closing
  • Magazine gift subscription started 30 days later

Everything is easier, even customer service, when you have it built into a system.
Think about how many borrowers you will help this year. Perhaps it will be 50, 100, or more. What if everyone, because of their fantastic experience, sent at least one friend to you next year? Theoretically, you could double your volume without any more prospecting. You might even have more business than you could handle. What a wonderful problem that would be.

By Douglas Smith