As Andy Murray has proved in his Olympic rematch with Roger Federer a good service at Wimbledon is central to a winning performance; likewise at the CML lunch, Martijn Van der Heijden, chairman of the Council of Mortgage Lenders, said he believes good customer service produces a winning formula when it comes lending.
At the lunch he told delegates there should be a shift in the emphasis from sales to a service culture, but also stated that lenders should be allowed to innovate for the benefit of the customer and the industry as a whole.
At a time when customer service issues are constantly in the news this gives rise to some interesting thoughts about the workings of the different parts of the mortgage market.
How often have we heard from industry commentators of the need for cross selling products, maximising sales opportunities and developing sales techniques? But we don’t seem to have heard much recently about improving customer service.
It could be argued that the ‘Treating Customers Fairly’ programme, introduced by the FSA a few years ago, did increase awareness of the importance of service, but did it go far enough? Has the focus remained or should more now be done to promote an understanding across the industry of exactly what real customer service is? I think probably the latter.
Customer service is much more than being polite and friendly, that should be a given. Real customer service should be at the heart of all we do, embedded into a business’s processes and philosophy. Real customer service is looking at the bigger picture, getting to know your customer, understanding their needs and providing solutions throughout that customer relationship. Of course, well trained and motivated staff and a polite and friendly demeanour always help.
The dilemma however, is that there are some products that actually do need to be sold to customers for their own benefit. In fact without sales people, adequately trained and rewarded, some customers may be under insured or, worse, have no cover at all.
This is where balance is key so that sales for sales sake are avoided and suitable sales become part of a service where customer needs are identified and budgets considered. A correct sales process can lead into great customer service and therefore one should not be at the expense of the other.
Ensuring a sales team understands this distinction is vital and is dependent on training and company ethos. Thankfully it is no longer a lengthy or costly exercise to provide relevant training; mortgage clubs are providing support to brokers and a wealth of material has been produced over recent years.
Martijn Van der Heijden also touched on innovation, which he thought often meant high risk in the past, but that innovation should now be seen as a good thing.
As products change and become less complicated, our customers, mostly through the internet, have a better understanding of available products. This greater awareness should allow good quality mortgage brokers to give advice to customers who are more receptive, which in turn will lead to more sales with greater longevity, that are less likely to be cancelled.
Thinking about customer service in a holistic manner presents intermediaries with an opportunity to examine not only their sales staff and processes but also their business relationships. In the same way that we as a mortgage club need to ensure our members get great service from our partners, brokers need to ensure their own standards run throughout their customers’ experience.
I have talked recently about the evolution of mortgage clubs, and how much more is on offer to brokers nowadays than just the use of a mortgage panel. When you look at it from a customer service angle this is another area where being aligned to a good mortgage club can reap dividends as solutions are much closer to hand.
Needless to say mortgage clubs should be constantly reviewing their propositions to provide a better ongoing service experience to members and if they’re not, become part of one that is.
I am reminded of a phrase I heard years ago: “The customer is king, long live the king.”
David Copland, LSL director of Mortgage Services and head of The Mortgage Alliance