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


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! 





Seven Ways to Work Happier


The following is from an earlier publication authored by Amara Rose.

We spend a lot of time focusing on ways to enhance the reverse mortgage experience for mature adults. Just as crucial, however, is the care of the reverse mortgage professional. The more relaxed, healthy, and well-rested you are, the better you’ll be able to listen and the more thorough and specific the service you’ll provide.

Here are seven ways to improve your workplace, mood, and manner:

1. Order in the workplace! There are people who can pull the precise piece of paper they need from a chaotic jumble on their desk. However, a well-ordered work area makes this exponentially easier. Think about placing your important documents in color-coded file folders, or whatever system suits your personality, available space, and daily needs.

2. Let there be light. Unless you have full-spectrum lighting, sun exposure through windows is preferable to sitting under fluorescent bulbs, which can weaken eyesight with their rapid, undetected blinking. Another health benefit of natural light is improved sleep, which affects the quality of life — and encourages people to get more exercise because they finally have the energy for it.

3. Go for the green. While plants improve air quality by breathing carbon dioxide and giving off oxygen, they also decrease stress and increase productivity by 12 percent, says a new AARP report. Maybe not a huge enhancement, but where else can you get a daily brain boost for the price of a little watering?

4. Vary the sitting. It’s a conundrum: sitting for more than four hours a day has been shown to increase the odds of developing cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease — ouch! — yet standing at a raised desk can lead to varicose veins, knee or ankle problems, and carpal tunnel syndrome. What’s a health-oriented reverse mortgage professional to do? The AARP article suggests (no joke) a treadmill: one study found those who walked during the workday lost weight and enjoyed greater productivity after one year. Of course, you could simply take a tip from one manager who possessed a lot of kinetic energy: he paced his office while talking on the phone, which burned calories, kept him from sitting or standing too much, and dispensed with the need for a treadmill.

5. Trust your animal instincts. A growing number of office buildings permit pets (and if you own the building, you get to make the rules). Pets help reduce stress, boost morale and collaboration, and raise efficiency.

6. Go walkabout for lunch. Give the sad-sack lunch-at-your-desk routine a pass and take a walk in the park; eat your meal while watching the birds. Or call a colleague and suggest you try that new sushi place. On the other hand, if you need to work on a closing or other mental task, staying focused at your desk is probably a better idea. Just try not to make a habit of it.

7. Music to your ears. While the younger generation seems to have earbuds surgically implanted, the AARP story does note that workers listening to music tend to complete tasks quicker and come up with better ideas than their quiet-loving colleagues. If you prefer to save music for after business hours, it still helps reduce stress, so listen to what you enjoy most when you’re unwinding at home, or on the drive there.




7 Things to Do When Business is Slow


Customer service has waned in the last decade

Do you hear the crickets yet? Many reverse mortgage originators and managers report an unusual silence in sales inquiries, calls, etc. The optimistic side of us hopes it’s jus the calm before the storm. Truth to told there are ebbs and flows to any business cycle.

With that in mind here are seven things we can do when business is slow.

  1. 1. Research your local market. Reverse Market Insight’s Neighborhood Dashboard is a great tool to learn more about your local market and uncover unseen opportunities.

  • 2. Optimize your online presence. Can local older homeowners or their children find you if they search for reverse mortgages in your area? If not you’re effectively invisible. If you need to start from scratch or just improve your existing website, reach out to us and let’s find a time to chat.

  1. 3. Reach out to local professionals or begin building a network. Local businesses live or die based on relationships. We’re not the exception to the rule. Disciplined relationship building begins with planning and commitment. Find where the people you want to know mingle and join. Make yourself available and useful by volunteering at events or fundraisers. Your status and value will be noted. 

  2. 4. Enhance your skillset. When’s the last time you read a book on sales techniques, attended a seminar or workshop? If you have more time on your hands now may be the opportunity to get started. 

  3. 5. Drip, drip, drip with email. Do you know it typically a person will see your email five to six times before they respond. Setup a series of emails that introduces yourself or your services. Be careful not to hammer them with too many emails in a short period of time lest they unsubscribe. A Client Relationship Manager such as Reverse Focus’ Sales Engine has just such a tool!

  4. 6. Call your previous borrowers. Has their situation changed? Do they need assistance in requesting a withdrawal from their reverse mortgage? How are things going in general for them? Remember, people don’t care until they know how much you care about them. At the end, ask if they may know anyone who could benefit from a reverse mortgage just as they did.

  5. 7. Prepare for rate cuts. Some economists feel the feel the Federal Reserve has been too slow to cut interest rates most are betting they will cut rates this spring. If true, are you prepared? If you’re fortunate enough to have a CRM (Client Relationship Manager), then look for recent applicants who were short-to-close. Reach out to them (by phone and email). Explain that you are closely watching interest rates and if they drop enough to increase their loan proceeds to qualify without bringing in cash to the closing you will be the first to call them. 

In closing, when it comes to sales there’s one thing a close friend told me a decade ago that sticks with me to this day- ‘Activity leads to opportunities’. A good reminder and perhaps another way to say the harder I work the luckier I get.

Let us know what activities you find productive during this sales season in the comment section below. 




Customer Service: Is it extinct?


Customer service has waned in the last decade

Actress Andie MacDowell became embroiled in a minor brouhaha. She was on a flight instead of the first class seat she’d paid for, and gosh, it was disheartening to hobnob with the unwashed masses.


At least, that’s how the media spun it. Actually, MacDowell insists, she just wanted to receive the level of customer service she’d purchased.>Customer service seems to be going the way of the landline phone, which is unfortunate — especially in a service business. Yet providing stellar service doesn’t need to be a big deal. Consider these contrasting scenarios: 

Heartbreak Hotel?


True service is subtle and sincere. Many years ago, I took a colleague who was in town for a conference to lunch at Campton Place, a five-star San Francisco hotel. Lunch for the two of us was $30 before tip (about $55 today). My colleague murmured, “I don’t mind paying $30 for a meal like this; it was worth it.” And while the lunch was scrumptious, she wasn’t referring to the food so much as the five-star service: waitstaff who magically refilled water glasses and bread baskets before we even thought to ask, and presented each course with a flourish. The message was clear: there is nothing we would rather be doing than serving you.


Shelley related what had transpired at her own hotel. Her complicated surname was misspelled on her name badge. She asked for a new one. The staff told her, “We’re busy now; come back later.” She did, and the extra badges couldn’t be located. Finally, she took a felt tip pen from her purse and redid the badge herself.

I described a similar experience at the library. (This was before Google and smartphones solved our research requests instantaneously.) I needed a single page of information from a reference book at a different location. My librarian verified its availability. When I drove across town to the other branch, the book was in use upstairs. I asked whether the librarian could fax me the page I needed when it was available if I paid for it now, reasoning that it would just take her a minute and would save me another trip across town. “Oh, no,” she replied with a tinge of amazement, “We don’t have time for special requests like that here.


Service With A Smile


The loan officer who called my attention to the dearth of service in service businesses said, “The lack of good customer service can be a real detriment to future incoming business, and I have always prided myself on doing things the right way. I also taught this as a topic as an adjunct professor at our local college.

“There is a motto that sums it up: ‘Treat People Right’. It is packed with what should be done to preserve your client relationships and grow new ones.”How do you do this in your reverse mortgage business? It’s easier than you may think. Kissmetrics suggests eight (here are four) fresh customer service ideas that can work for the reverse mortgage industry, such as:

1. Make a video. For senior prospects, seeing a friendly face answer basic HECM questions creates a connection before you or they even pick up the phone. This HECMWorld blog post describes how to create a compelling, service-oriented reverse mortgage video.  


2. Publish reports. Take one of our weekly blog posts that focuses on senior topics, such as this piece on eight ways to transition into retirement, or this one on the value of embracing change, create a brief “report”, and email or snail mail it with a personal note, suggesting your prospect may find the material of interest. This builds credibility, with a warm fuzzy: everyone loves getting personal mail, especially seniors — and especially in the form of a letter they can hold in their hands.

3. Send a personal thank-you note. Like the above, hand-written thank-you notes are so rare you’ll immediately catapult to the head of the class. It takes almost no time to dash off a line of appreciation to the senior prospect or client by name, on your good stationery or on a greeting card.

4. Showcase customer support. Just as people have confidence in 5-star reviews, it pays to show off your customer kudos. If you have a Reverse Focus website, let prospects (and clients) see those client satisfaction ratings and testimonials. As the Kissmetrics blog states, “not only does it help potential customers make a decision, it also helps reaffirm the faith existing customers have in them.”

You have the potential to be a Campton Place in every transaction. All it takes is a firm commitment to client care.




Avoiding the Business Grinch

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Seizing the Holiday Season for Business Planning & Growth

reverse mortgage news[CORRECTION]: The Financial Assessment goes into effect March 2nd, 2015, not the 15th as I erroneously mentioned in the video]
It’s the season of winter cheer, eggnog, ridiculously big meals, gifts and unfortunately the business Grinch. The Business Grinch appears every December attempting to steal our productivity, well intentioned plans and goals for the coming year. What are some ways you can prepare to avoid the business grinch? Let’s look at a few ways to better prepare and maximize this season.

1- Projects. Begin by making a master list of the projects you wish to accomplish this year. Break them down into smaller action steps and then

2- Time block your calendar. Time block the days and times you will dedicate to your project actions. Also time block out recurring activities that are the backbone of your business such as outbound lead calls, follow up, professional networking, conferences and more.

3- Reexamine your marketing plan. We should anticipate a rush of new applicants in January and February in anticipation of the Financial Assessment which goes into effect March 15th. The question is what happens after? Here is where you will need to…

Download the video transcript for this episode here.

Looking for more reverse mortgage tools, training & technology? Visit ReverseFocus.com today

Blind Spots

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Three Fallacies to be Avoided

Reverse Mortgage News Blind Spots, or better yet Biases. We all have them. It’s our brain’s ways of taking shortcuts in decision making. A hard wired yet often flawed response. Some may be good as they clarify and reinforce our beliefs and philosophy while others can be destructive. To improve our efficiency and position ourselves for increased success let’s look at three blind spots we should be aware of and avoid. Economically one of our most common blind spots or fallacies is the Sunk Cost Fallacy. Here’s an example…

Download the video transcript here.

Looking for more reverse mortgage news, tools & technology? Visit Reverse Focus here today.