These days, a focus on “customer service” isn’t enough. In every profession, it’s the end-to-end “customer experience” that will set you apart from the competition – and the mortgage industry is no exception.
Improving your customers’ experience is like painting the Golden Gate Bridge: It’s never done. Once you’ve gone from one end of your business to the other, looking for opportunities, it’s time to start again from the beginning. It’s not a project or an initiative. It’s a way of doing business –always focusing on how your customers perceive you and how well you are meeting their needs at every touchpoint. Here are 5 Customer Experience (CX) truths I’ve learned after a few decades in the workplace.
1. Culture rules.
As management consultant Peter Drucker said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Culture is a company’s DNA. It’s an invisible but undeniable force that shapes the behavior of employees and, ultimately, results. For companies looking to pursue a CX strategy, addressing the culture is the first order of business. A motivational poster won’t cut it, and insincerity or perceived lack of commitment are the kiss of death. However, while culture – unlike DNA – can be changed, it will be an evolution that requires thoughtful discussions to determine the mission statement, values and goals from the top of the organization throughout.
2. A CX culture starts at the top, is supported and reinforced in the middle, and executed from top to bottom and side to side.
You won’t achieve customer experience goals without direction and support from top to bottom and collaboration across functions. It’s essential to articulate clear core values and translate them to department-level actions. The CX “talk” must be included in all internal communications, and the CX “walk” must be visible at all levels of the organization. And in the mortgage industry, where partnerships are paramount, this extends to your vendors and referral partners – you want to recommend real estate agents and other partners who will contribute to a stellar overall home-buying experience.
3. Employees at every level can make or break the customer relationship.
My husband and I used to frequent a family-owned Mexican restaurant in our neighborhood. It was small, but it had good service and excellent food. The restaurant became quite popular and eventually moved to a larger, trendier space, but the food and service we enjoyed remained the same. But after a while, we sensed subtle changes in the atmosphere – a little less friendly and less personal. We continued to eat there, albeit less frequently. On our last visit, we approached the hostess stand to get a table. The hostess, without a greeting, without looking up, without apology, and without asking us if we wanted to dine at the bar, said “45 minutes.” We walked out and haven’t been back. Maybe we were at the tipping point with this establishment – they were starting to lose their neighborhood appeal – but the last incident put us over the edge.
4. Customers are internal and external.
Your service to internal customers impacts their service to external customers. Making their jobs easier means they can focus on the external customer. And that care and respect must go both ways. External-facing co-workers shouldn’t throw the internal folks under the bus. (“I don’t know where your food is – the cook is having a bad day!”) Your receptionist, underwriters and loan processors all play a part in the customer experience – and if they receive excellent service within your organization, it will be easier for them to provide it externally.
5. Share and celebrate success.
Everyone likes success stories – they are motivating and inspirational. Creating a forum for sharing success is essential for keeping momentum and reinforcing goals.
So keep painting that CX bridge – it can lead you to a better understanding of what your customers need, greater employee and customer satisfaction, and more effective collaboration. And like the “customer experience” itself, the process of improving CX is more about the journey than the destination.