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3 Lessons Reverse Mortgage Professionals Can Learn from Amtrak & NYC’s Subway System

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Signs, communication & reassurance

My wife and I just returned from our tenth anniversary vacation to New York City and Niagara Falls. Traveling comes with its own set of challenges but also opportunities for teachable moments. With a nine and a half hour ride from Penn Station to Niagara Falls and back the importance of how we interact with our potential borrowers and clients came to mind as the landscape rushed by our window.

Lesson #1: Clear communication is essential!

After taking the F train from Queens to Penn Station’s Moynihan Hall in Manhattan we continued to follow the countless signs to prepare for our departure. You have to hand it to New Yorkers- their signage is extensive and detailed, and while at times confusing, those who persist will find themselves at their intended destination. 

My favorite signs are those in New York City’s subway cars. Once boarded you’ll now instantly if you’ve boarded the right train. The interior sign shows you the next stop and how many stops until your desired destination. It’s simple, clear, and reduces a traveler’s anxiety as they can track their progress. Perhaps those originating in New York may want to create a chart describing the reverse mortgage process with a similar layout.

Establishing expectations reassures homeowners where they’ll begin and the steps required to ultimately fund their loan.

There’s signage and then there’s verbal communication. 

Amtrak’s announcements are somewhat reminiscent of going to a cattle auction. A steady cadence of fast, somewhat incomprehensible words strung together, coupled with the employee’s local dialect. When it comes to speaking “New York”, I have no problems and the accent rarely is an obstacle. It’s the pacing that doesn’t always ensure the message being sent is received by those waiting to board.

Lesson #2: Reassure them along the way

After two days of exploring Niagara Falls and city near our hotel we returned the Amtrak station for a 6:47 a.m. departure. Walking through the ground level doors and arriving at the second floor waiting area we found an empty waiting area and ticket counter. Not one employee was to be seen. “This place is a ghost ship”, I quipped to my wife. As the minutes passed I chuckled to myself wondering if we were in the wrong place. We weren’t. It just so happened that we were the only two passengers to board in Niagara. Let’s just say our choice of seats was unlimited.

In the same way reverse mortgage applicants may get antsy waiting for updates on their loan application’s status. The top mortgage originators I know are proactive and instruct their applicants that they will update them on one or two specific days each week. 

Lesson #3: Show a little tenderness

Any vacation or application for a reverse mortgage for that matter is a collection of experiences. Little waypoints along the way that become part of one’s collective experience. As reverse mortgage professionals it’s our duty to ensure homeowners receive a concierge level of service and politeness they deserve. Perhaps several of you reading this who have experienced superb service  have been inspired to reach for new levels of excellence in your own practice. 

Unfortunately, a trip to the dining car reminded me just how we don’t want to interact with our valued applicants and borrowers. After a 5:00 a.m. wakeup call coffee was at the top of my to-do list. Approaching the cafe counter the employee slowly got up from his chair and approached the point-of-sale computer. “Good morning”, I said. “Just a minute”, he gruffly replied, “I’m not ready”. Okay. After a minute or two of zero eye contact or even a greeting I placed my order for two coffees. “Just tap your card here”. Obediently I tapped my card but it didn’t take so I laid it down a bit longer. “I didn’t say keep it on there. I said tap it quickly”, said Mr. Cheerful. Throughout the exchange I refused to return rudeness in kind instead addressing him as “sir” and saying please and thank you.  After the card charged successfully I carried our  treasured hot coffee back to our seats. “What was that?!” I thought. That, was exactly what we never want our customers to experience.

Each of our interactions should (1) acknowledge our customers promptly (2) express gratitude for the opportunity to serve them, and (3) leave them a reason to ultimately give us a five-star review. 

Clear communication, a reassuring experience, and top-notch customer service are crucial to our success and reputation as reverse mortgage professionals. After all, anything we can do to smooth out a homeowner’s reverse mortgage journey may lead them to recommend their friends and family take your reverse mortgage train.

All aboard! 


 

 

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Editor in Chief: HECMWorld.com
 
As a prominent commentator and Editor in Chief at HECMWorld.com, Shannon Hicks has played a pivotal role in reshaping the conversation around reverse mortgages. His unique perspectives and deep understanding of the industry have not only educated countless readers but has also contributed to introducing practical strategies utilizing housing wealth with a reverse mortgage.
 
Shannon’s journey into the world of reverse mortgages began in 2002 as an originator and his prior work in the financial services industry. Shannon has been covering reverse mortgage news stories since 2008 when he launched the podcast HECMWorld Weekly. Later, in 2010 he began producing the weekly video series The Industry Leader Update and Friday’s Food for Thought.
 
Readers wishing to submit stories or interview requests can reach our team at: info@hecmworld.com.

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4 Comments

  1. Using a travel metaphor to explain your process is a great way to help clients understand that getting a loan (reverse or forward) is a journey not an event.
    Nice Job!

    • Thank you, Greg!

    • Thank you, Tom!


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