24 Jan 2019

Transform your loan officers into customer experience leaders

Do you think your customers have a good experience doing business with you?

Be honest.

Customer experience in the banking industry can make or break a company. It’s always been important, but it’s now essential as the industry evolves and transforms. Experts believe that by 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. Do you offer enough to stand out from the crowd?

One big way to improve the customer experience in the loan application process is to redirect and reinvigorate some key people you already have. The terms “customer experience” and “loan officer” don’t always go hand-in-hand, but they should. If your loan officers rarely interact with customers and merely wait around for the next long-form application to land in their laps, you’re missing an opportunity.

Try instead to see your loan officers as potential concierges: ambassadors who solve customer problems, shepherd them through the process and cultivate good recommendations and future leads. In short, transform them into customer experience leaders and reward them as your business grows.

If you’re not yet convinced that providing good customer experience is critical, take a look at these numbers.

An analysis by Forrester found customer experience innovators boast more than five times the growth than those seen as laggards. Bain & Company found businesses that provide good customer experience grow revenues 4%-8% higher than the market.

Good customer experience breeds loyalty and referrals. It’s so important that a majority surveyed by the Office of Consumer Affairs said they’d be willing to pay more if it would guarantee a good customer experience. On the other hand, customers who have poor experiences will likely avoid you in the future and tell friends, family and social media followers to do the same.

While most companies aspire to offer a great customer experience, only about 20% really do. Whether you sell hamburgers, Hondas or 30-year mortgages, customers are going to come away from the experience with impressions. Why not make the effort to ensure it’s a good one?

This is where your loan officers come in. In theory, they’re the personification of your business, a liaison between bank and borrower who can guide customers through the daunting application process. It’s not always that way in reality these days. Too many modern loan officers have minimal customer interaction and simply plug DTI ratios and other key data into an algorithm.

In late 2018, BMO Harris announced plans to eliminate most face-to-face loan officers, using call centers and video conferencing instead. A company spokesperson said its shift to an online mortgage application platform is just a reflection of what modern customers demand.

But modern customers also demand good customer experience. Call centers can feel cold and impersonal, no matter what industry uses them. Is that the impression you want to give people who are preparing to make a major financial commitment?

Customer experience in the banking industry is about forging emotional connections over some of life’s most important things: home, family and security. An impersonal process can’t build bonds or provide the feelings of support your customers need — and will want to tell others about. In-person interactions with a friendly human face can go a long way toward improving the customer’s sense of the overall experience.

It’s not just your customers who need the connection. Many loan officers — nearly half — don’t consider their jobs meaningful. That’s because the impersonal, formula-driven process has taken too much human interaction out of it. Employees who don’t see meaning in their work are less satisfied, less engaged and are less driven to produce results. Empowered with a new sense of purpose, new opportunities to connect and perhaps some new financial incentives, re-energized loan officers can provide outstanding customer experiences.

They’re the perfect ones to do it, too. They know your company. They know the loan products you offer. They know the market and the common problems that snarl applications, especially among first-time borrowers, the ones most likely to want and need help. But even experienced borrowers can feel more comfortable knowing a loan officer will raise red flags or help solve their problems during the process.

So how can you make the most of your loan officers?

Training

To provide exceptional customer experience, you need to know the job. This is true everywhere, but especially for those in front-facing positions in complex industries. Loan officers know their own jobs, but how well do they understand the roles and responsibilities of others up the chain of command? Broader knowledge of the entire process can help them identify problems, explain them to the customer and work out mutually beneficial solutions.

Likewise, it’s hard for anyone to provide exceptional customer experience if they don’t know what it means. Create a customer experience boot camp for your loan officers, one focused on forging good business relationships, learning problem-solving skills, developing empathy and teaching them how to walk customers through the complicated loan application process. Tell loan officers your customer experience expectations and show the many ways to exceed them.

Don’t forget to lead by example. If customer experience isn’t ingrained in the culture, it won’t be authentic.

Empowering

Once you teach your loan officers what to do, you need to give them the power to do it.

Red tape always threatens a good customer experience. When every step of the process requires a customer — and employee — to get some sort of upward approval, that increases wait times and customer frustration.

While not suggesting loan officers have unilateral authority over every phase, all organizations can look for ways to streamline their procedures. Loan officers who master the entire process should be allowed to manage more of its steps, within legal, ethical and practical restraints.

Incentivizing

Renewed feelings of purpose and value will help loan officers assist and engage, but they’ll be further driven if you give them more skin in the game. Consider rewarding loan officers for providing exceptional customer experiences rather than the mere quantity of their output. These rewards could be financial bonuses, additional perks, advancement opportunities or in-house awards. Even plaques on the walls of the office can be a sign to the loan officers — and future customers — of the premium that the company places on good customer experience.

When the the loan officer’s efforts to provide great customer experience directly generate referrals and new business, consider rewarding them with a percentage of the new revenue. Few things are more precious than employees who consistently generate new business and goodwill. Show them how much it means to you.

The Bottom Line

A good customer experience generates loyalty and good recommendations. It’s what today’s consumers demand. By training, empowering and incentivizing your loan officers to better engage and cultivate relationships with customers, it can be a win-win situation for everyone. Use the form above to get in touch with us. We’d love to hear from you!

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