Take your credit union hat off and let’s walk in the consumer’s shoes for just a moment. When you think of financing a home, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Does your stomach automatically go into knots and get queasy? I look back on the first time I bought a home and recall how everyone told me it was going to be so hard and stressful. I had low expectations because quite frankly everyone painted this horrible picture of how awful it was going to be to buy a home.
I’d expect that most people, and especially first-time homebuyers, have the same low expectations of the process of taking out a mortgage. I’d say most people don’t have any idea what will be hard about it. I certainly didn’t. I just believed I would be stressed out and frustrated by the end. But I do think most people think it will be a difficult undertaking.
Let’s put our professional credit union hats back on. As lenders and mortgage professionals, we have the opportunity to kill any dread members feel with the first contact we have with them. The first person to talk to a member about a home loan sets the stage for all the interactions going forward. That first interaction should be a thorough discussion about what’s ahead, who they will hear from, timelines, responsibilities, fees, and terms, all tied together with a smile and friendly voice. That’s what credit unions are great at—personal service—which provides confidence and a feeling of security in navigating the transaction.
However, if you really want to knock the socks off your members, you must take it to the next level. The home loan is the place to do it. A mortgage is the most important transaction a member will ever make, and it’s the perfect time to exceed the members’ expectations. Think about it. It’s the scenario where everyone expects the worst, and you can show up with a memorable and significant experience. You will earn a member for life! So, how do you push that experience to the next level? It’s wrapped up in one little word: listen.
To take service to the next level in mortgage lending that surpasses good service to amazing, your entire lending team needs to be able to ask members questions and really hear their answers to draw conclusions about their real needs. A careful and thought-out conversation to learn the member’s story will not only help you determine loan eligibility and loan programs that help achieve the member’s goal but also reveal possible fraud that could impact the organization. Listening will help you understand the members’ expectations and how you can exceed them.
Start by learning about their financing situation. Find out all about their new dream home if they are buying a new one or learn how a refinance is going to change their life. Learn ways you can communicate with them best. Find out details about their family, their finances, their experiences, their dreams. This is a time when your team can draw a member in for a real conversation, and it’s not all that unusual that you are getting personal.
By learning the member’s story, you have this great opportunity to cross-sell anything that might make sense as a solution to their needs, and you’ll have what you need to set up a successful mortgage experience for your member. They will quickly know it’s all about them, and you’ll grow a very sticky relationship with them for the long term.
That’s it. Just listen. Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? It is that simple though. The more information you know about the member, the more you’ll be able to make a thorough evaluation of the loan situation and ensure that you are understanding their needs and how to fulfill them. Understanding their expectations is your golden ticket to exceeding them.
My first home-buying experience was a breeze. My husband actually said, “Don’t think it happens like this normally because it doesn’t. This was strangely easy.” In the end, we bought our first home without a single complaint. Ten years later I can tell you my Realtor’s name, who my loan officer and processor were, and how long it took us to close. And yes, I’ll be comparing it to every future purchase I have. It’s set in my memory for the rest of my life. Make sure your credit union is part of that memory for your member.