Customer Experience Should Be Your Edge

Mortgage lenders are living a new reality: customer experience isn’t just about a solid customer service call center. An exceptional customer experience can mean the difference between winning and losing business altogether. Referrals are no longer just driven by partners in the real estate or financial worlds. Consumers are tapping friends, family, and social network contacts. The game is changing, thanks to the increasing influence of social media. As this trend accelerates, financial institutions will need to keep pace with consumer expectations if they want to build positive word of mouth and gain a competitive edge.

Consumers now have the opportunity to publicly share their experiences with any business, and they can influence a broad network of friends and colleagues. New York public relations firm Edelman reported that in the online world, 76 percent of consumers will recommend companies they trust to a friend. And 57 percent of shoppers are more likely to buy after receiving opinions from friends, according to a recent “Social Impact Consumer Study” from Sociable Labs.

Even before the economic crisis rocked consumer confidence in financial services, people turned to their friends for advice to find the best TV, cell phone, or a great new restaurant. Now, borrowers often seek referrals from their social network before they’ll even consider talking with a lender. If you are a lender, how do you deliver an experience worth recommending?

Building consumer trust through great customer experience

For the mortgage shopper, their customer experience can be a challenging journey. The idea of a straightforward purchase path or funnel simply no longer applies. Ideally, the customer’s journey takes them from learning about your brand, to engaging in early discussions, to submitting an application, to closing a deal, to maintaining a relationship with you for the life of their mortgage. In reality, during the origination process consumers are using mobile apps to get real-time info from websites like Zillow, they are checking Yelp for feedback on the loan officer, and they are rate shopping with centralized players like Quicken Loans. And at every touch point, they are mentally measuring their experience –and if it’s noticeably good or bad, they’re probably talking about it.

To leverage the power of positive word-of-mouth, lenders should consider a few key best practices to ensure they deliver a customer experience that inspires trust, such as:

>> Focus on the end-to-end experience – Evaluate the customer experience across all channels to gain a complete picture of how consumers view your business. With all the various players, the mortgage industry can be fragmented, and a mistake made by one department can sour the entire process for a borrower. Designate someone to be responsible for identifying and improving the customer journey. You need someone who is able to smooth any bumps in the road and strengthen the relationship.

>> Grow a customer-centric company – Invest in employee training to help everyone understand how to embody your brand values, particularly when they engage with customers. Responding to servicing needs or providing better refinancing rates isn’t enough for consumers. They want experiences that feel good, especially when their money and their home is involved. By building a company culture focused on exceptional customer experience, you increase the likelihood that borrowers will recommend your business to everyone they know.

Delivering a positive customer experience is good for business. In today’s mortgage industry, meeting compliance needs is only the beginning. A winning customer experience can be the key to a much stronger brand and give you a powerful marketing tool.

About The Author

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Steven J. Ramirez is chief executive officer of San Francisco–based Beyond the Arc Inc., a customer experience and advanced analytics firm that helps financial services clients differentiate themselves in the marketplace. He can be reached at web@beyondthearc.net. Beyond the Arc can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/beyondthearc.