With the hope of a busy spring homebuying season, mortgage lenders are getting ready for new business. While the market still poses a challenge for hopeful buyers, the key to success for lenders will be establishing and building relationships. Rates and inventory are beyond anyone’s control – but the experience lenders provide to new customers has the potential to pay-off – no matter what state the market is in.
To learn more about the importance of establishing strong customer relationships right from the start, MortgageOrb recently interviewed Kierstin McKenna, account development manager at mortgage insurance firm Enact.
Q: What data should lenders gather at the beginning of a new customer or partner relationship?
McKenna: How a customer or partner relationship starts sets the expectation for the entire engagement. Loan officers (LOs) must be prepared to make a good first impression and establish trust early on.
At the beginning of a relationship, it’s important to learn as much about the customer as possible: What do they value? What challenges are they facing? What are their expectations for the relationship? What are their expectations for communication?
The list can go on, but what’s most important, in the beginning, is to have a genuine conversation with the customer. It’s great to have questions prepared, but it should not feel like a checklist.
Additionally, it’s important to keep the customer talking and don’t forget to take notes and retain their answers. If anything in the conversation is unclear, dive deeper. Clarifying something simple in the beginning can save a lot of time and confusion down the road. The beginning of a relationship is a natural opportunity to gather any necessary information.
Across the industry, all types of businesses are looking into how they can be more data-driven. By asking these questions and finding out what a new customer values, LOs are gathering important data that will inform how they and their team manage the customer relationship.
Q: How can this data help create a customer engagement strategy?
McKenna: Once the customer’s needs and current situation are clear, it’s time to put that data into action. The information that’s been gathered is critical for creating a personalized experience that makes each individual customer feel valued.
One way to put this data to work is let it inform which resources to connect customers with. Now that the LO has heard about their customer’s situation, it’s time to tell them about what their organization offers.
The key here is to be intentional in what’s provided. Bombarding a new customer right off the bat with an entire list of services and resources can be overwhelming. To make it feel more natural, LOs must use what they’ve learned about their customer to determine which services and resources are best for their needs.
First-time homebuyers may need a training or may be eligible for a first-time homebuyer program, but clearly not every buyer needs to know about these resources. Buyers from out of town may need to learn about the area while local buyers don’t need help there. Additionally, there may be a newsletter that would be helpful or educational for the buyer – or maybe the LO has a partner they want to put the borrower in contact with.
At every turn, those in touch with the customer should make sure they are only sharing resources that make sense for that specific person and their situation. The customer will notice – and they’ll recognize that the lender truly listened to their needs.
It’s also important for lenders to use the data they’ve gathered to plan their communications. Offering the perfect resource will not be effective if it’s not presented correctly. While it may seem basic or even inconsequential, lenders will likely be most effective simply by being mindful of the customer’s communication preferences. Do they only want emails or only answer calls after business hours? Do they respond better to text messages? Do they want to hear from the team often or only when something is urgent? Again, it’s critical that the lender demonstrate that they’ve listened to the borrower’s needs by personalizing their communication style.
Q: So how can lenders continue this new customer strategy throughout the relationship?
McKenna: Once the relationship is established, its important not to lose momentum. Lenders must find opportunities for additional touch points to make customers feel special. LOs should never underestimate the power of simply letting a customer know they are thinking of them, whether it’s a new resource they should know about or just a check-in to see how things are going.
Even once the loan has closed, lenders can still check in. This demonstrates the organization truly cares for the customer as a person and not just as a business opportunity.
These additional touch-points may open new opportunities, too, if the borrower is looking for a home equity loan or another product the business can provide.
First impressions are everything. Starting a relationship on a good note sets the tone for everything that comes after. And, one good relationship could lead to repeat business or referrals in the future. Taking the time to listen to customers and give them exactly what they need will set up LOs for success this spring.