The Calm Before The Storm

This is truly the calm before the storm. The week between Christmas and New Year’s provides that brief moment of reflection just before the rush of the New Year. Just like those who received gym memberships will flock toward the treadmills after January 1st, so will begin the wave of home sellers, home buyers, and all the fresh to the purchase arena mortgage professionals who want to begin building referral relationships with Realtors®.

January often sees a wave of activity. People all looking for a fresh start. But what about those who have been here all along? Quite simply, if you have built quality relationships, no single wave of hopeful promises will have any effect on them. That is why we have been focused on these for the entire fourth quarter, to withstand the rush of new found interest. For those relationships that are new, or ones where they haven’t quite yet been producing results? Just keep consistent and on message. Keep reinforcing your message of value and quality, and you should be fine. Just remember; value, solutions, consistency, and history are far more compelling than promises and hope. You have earned your foothold, just keep on message and reap the rewards. By mid-February the wave should pass and we can prepare for a bountiful spring season.

You have a few days left to secure your position. Not much competition on the streets today, tomorrow, or Saturday. These should be very active and productive days for you. Engage the streets and talk with everyone. Work with focus and purpose. Leave a physical trail of reminders that you were there and present. Call everyone you have visited but didn’t speak with and leave a message to let them know you were working and available for business.

Now I don’t expect a great deal of activity. But what I do expect is an honest effort to be engaged and visible to those few who are working and to those not working to know you were. There will be some earnest buyers out looking these last few days of 2012. They are out there because they have to be. Just the sight of you being available could lead to a number of really solid opportunities.

This has been a really outstanding year. Housing has made a slow but steady return; interest rates have help keep refinances plentiful; and regardless of what happens with the “fiscal cliff”, it would appear that the first half of 2013 should provide as much, or more loan opportunities than we saw in 2012. So for now, get out in the streets for the next few days. Be visible and available to those that need you. Be prepared to be back out and prepared for a bunch of company for the first few weeks of 2013, just like all the gyms in the country, many loan originators will have made New Year’s resolutions to increase the number of purchase transactions, and that will find a bunch of new faces out in the market place. You will thrive because you have been prepared and are expecting them. In three or four weeks the crowd will thin, just like in the gym.


Happy New Year Everyone!


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Don’t Stop!

I know Christmas is five days away. I also know that it is a “holiday week” and many people have packed up and gone away until next year. Believe me, I know how many have called it a year and are taking a well-deserved break to enjoy some time off to unwind. To those people, BRAVO! Enjoy!

For those of you that found 2012 not to be all you had hoped, or one where you didn’t have as much success as you would have liked; or just realize that you can do better or NEED to do better, congratulations, you have an opportunity.

The most important four days for your success in 2013 may just be ahead of you. December 26th through 29th could be a very special four days. While many are taking time off, some people are out looking to buy a house. Some are looking to sell those people the house they are looking for. These people are not out looking for decorating tips, or at their desks because they want to be. They are out there because they HAVE TO BE!

This low traffic, low volume time represents a golden opportunity for mortgage professionals who are prepared to make a minor commitment of time and energy can reap huge returns. The key to these returns is VISABILITY! If you plan on working these days, you need to let everyone know about it. Send out an email, pick up the phone, get out of the office and hit the road and visit every potential referral partner and let them know you are working and are there to support them.

If 2012 didn’t meet your expectations, you need to make changes. If your business was less that 20% off where you want it to be, then a few simple tweaks of your systems and procedures will help. If your business is farther off than that, you will require real structural changes to get to where you want to go. You need to start at the beginning.

Plain and simple, you don’t do enough business because you don’t talk to enough people. The mortgage business is really pretty simple. Commissions come from closed loans. Closed loans are a result of taking applications. Applications are taken after we have reviewed documentation and credit reports, and that only comes after you talk to people!

Everyone who wants more business needs to get out from behind a desk, stop hiding behind email, texting, and websites; and get out and go talk to someone. ANYONE!

Most of the people in this country own the place they live. The rest live in a place that is rented. You can make the cost of home ownership lower for most of the owners, and you can help those that rent find a path toward home ownership, which in many cases, is less expensive than renting!

December 26th through 29th it is likely you won’t find many people around, but neither will you find much competition. Those that you find may long remember the fact that you were there long after the end of the year.

Think about this, on either January 2nd or January 7th, a whole new wave of mortgage professionals fresh off vacation, or having read a self-help book, or full of new energy to take on the world, will enter the market trying to secure purchase loan business. Just like every gym in the country, offices will be full of originators soliciting loan business; they will be everywhere! So my question to you is, would you rather get out next week when nobody else is out there, or do you want to wait until next year and be part of the frenzy?

Just a quick update from last week’s post, an actual Comcast® employee arrived at my home at 10am and spent a few hours getting everything up and running. He was very professional, was very apologetic, and acknowledged the challenges with both their customer service centers and the use of contract service providers. He took the time to double check that everything was working as we needed it to.

The technician employed by Comcast® was a professional and did a great job. Too bad his company and his fellow employees aren’t as dedicated to customer satisfaction as he is. We all need to learn from this lesson. No matter whom you work for, or what your position, you need to be that person that understands that without the customer, we have nothing!

Enjoy the holiday season with your families, as I will enjoy having a wonderful Christmas celebration with mine in our new home!

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Diminished Expectations

First let me say thank you to all of you that took the time to comment and share last week’s post. It was the most comments and shares since I began, and it really feels good to know that you are out there reading these every Thursday.

Part of what I was writing about last week and want you to see was how exceptional a simple task can be if you think it through enough to create and execute an exceptional experience. By fully understanding what your customer has come to expect, you can create and execute a plan and install a system that far exceeds those expectations. When you do, your customer feels truly cared for and appreciated. They feel like you value their business, and even more, them as people.

In today’s world, so much focus has been placed on speed and price that service is often lost in the mix. Many businesses feel that customers will put up with really poor treatment if you can deliver the product or service fast enough and cheap enough. And that my friends, is truly a shame, it really doesn’t have to be that way!

I am just in the process of completing a move into a new house. As all moves go, there are always a series of events that add stress to an already stressful situation. With all the things that need to be done, you have to go out and get some professional help, or you are forced to try and do it yourself. Even if you wanted too, some things you have to rely on other people to do. I wanted to share with you my personal experience, so you can relate it to your own lives and maybe reflect on your business and see if there are a few things you might be able to improve upon to make your overall level of service better.

One of the outside “professionals” I have to deal with is the cable company for TV and internet service. In south Florida satellite service is spotty at best during the frequent thunder storms and phone internet and TV here isn’t much better. So, you either use Comcast® or you pretty much have nothing. So a few weeks before the move, we begin to schedule services and compare packages. When we spoke to Comcast®, they said that the new location had never had cable service so they would have to send someone out to check. It took a bit of follow-up, but we were scheduled to have our service connected between 3 & 5pm on Tuesday the 12th.
Well, at 5:15pm we had not heard from our installer so my wife called Comcast® to see what was going on. After more than an hour and two conversations, she was told the installer was going to call her in a few minutes and would soon be on his way. By 7pm, still no call and no installer. Another call to Comcast®, and another hour worth of back and forth, we were told that no installer was coming and that the best they could do was to be at our home between 8 & 10am the next morning. When my wife asked if they were sure this would happen, she was told that the installer would be there between 8 & 10am.

Discouraged and disappointed, our first night in our new home would be without TV and internet service. Not a huge deal if someone would have bothered to call us BEFORE our appointment and told us that service was not going to be provided as promised. The $20 Comcast® guarantee feels like little compensation for waiting four plus hours for nobody to show up. But, we go to bed and get up early so we can be ready to go about our day with the Comcast® installer between 8 & 10.

At 8am we get a call from Comcast® letting us know that our installer would not be coming as promised because every installer in the state of Florida was at a meeting this morning. No worries, we would be compensated $20 for the missed appointment and that our installer would be at our home between 10 & 12 to get the job done. Really, do any of us believe this? If Comcast® had any real competition for my business do you think they would treat people this way? Do you think they care? Do you really think $20 is just compensation for lying to me? Do you think just because you can get away with this kind of poor treatment, you should?

In the mortgage industry we need to look at our process and how we treat our customers. Do we make promises we know we can’t keep? Do we tell people things will get done by a certain time and then miss those deadlines?

All professionals should never promise what they can’t deliver. If you have a deadline and something goes wrong, you need to contact the customer BEFORE you miss the deadline, not hide from them and hope they don’t notice.

Speed and price are great, but never at the cost of professional integrity. Do what you say, when you say you are going to do it. If you are going to miss a deadline, be a professional and tell the truth! Adding lies to a disappointment isn’t the solution. Either is hiding behind voicemail, email, or telling me I should lower my expectations of what professional conduct is. How about the mortgage industry being a profession known for setting high expectations and exceeding them? We all know that hasn’t exactly been the case the last few years. Have we diminished expectations so far in this country that we just accept being lied too and expect that this is just the way it is? I can lie to you as long as I give you $20?

We all need to elevate the customer experience. We need to raise expectations of ourselves and our performance, not lower the customer’s expectation of what they should receive from us.

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Executing the Plan – Average vs. Elite!

I saw a video clip this morning that really made an impact on me that I wanted to share. It brings home a message that clearly defines average and elite. Now while this clip is about a bartender mixing a drink, I think loan originators and those that manage them can take away a really powerful message from this clip if they look at the big picture.

It is obviously a talent contest and the three judges are rather uninspired at the prospect of watching a bartender mix a drink. Watch the expressions on their faces change as they watch the process unfold. Clearly this isn’t what they expected. As each element increases the overall difficulty, and some elements are not what they have expected, they become more and more engaged in the presentation and enjoy the experience. It concludes with a standing ovation and the judges certainly received much more entertainment than they thought possible at the beginning. The people in the crowd were also impressed to the point that I am sure they will share the experience of what they saw with others.

So what does this have to do with the mortgage industry? I think it has a great deal to do with our industry from the aspect of diminished expectations and pretty low regard for what the entire process can be. Most people are just happy if the loan closes near the anticipated closing date and expect a bit of pain and suffering along the way as just part of the process. Does it really have to be this way?

Let’s be honest, many loan originators and the companies they work for don’t set a very high standard of customer service. Many really don’t have a vision of the customer experience, and many can’t even define the process is words the average consumer can understand. Simple things like returning a phone call or email are sometimes highly suspect. Do our customers have any understanding of how and when they can expect a reply or a returned call? Do we have a timeline for the loan process that has simple dates and milestones so everyone involved in the process is clear as to what is going on, what happens next, and who is the one responsible for making sure each action is complete on time and correctly?

You see, the fundamental loan process is really pretty simple. We all know what is going to take place and how long it should take. Unfortunately, we do a really poor job sharing those actions and the time it should take to complete upfront and clearly with the customer and our referral partners. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It just has to be clear and consistent. But just like the bartender in this video, the experience doesn’t have to be what you or your customers expect.

This bartender isn’t just mixing a drink. There are significant areas of “flare” where the bartender elaborates the process or adds an outside element to the process that makes this process go from average to ELITE!

So watch this video and think about your mortgage process. This bartender doesn’t just make this routine up; he clearly has practiced this over and over, bringing in additional elements along the way. This isn’t about just mixing a drink; it’s about bringing together a series well practiced tasks and combining them into an experience! Ask yourself a question, have I developed my skill set and the different elements of my mortgage practice into a well-choreographed performance as this bartender has? Has he thought more about his process then I have mine?

Are you just grabbing a glass and throwing together some ingredients, or are you putting together all the elements of a great finished product in a way that leaves them applauding? Do you deliver “standing ovation” caliber performances? Are you average or elite?

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