Customer Service, You Say?

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True Customer Service is Subtle & Sincere

Actress Andie MacDowell became embroiled in a minor brouhaha. She was seated in coach 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.

The Future of Aging Well

There is the matter of how societal expectations affect where older adults live, which makes the changing senior living landscape a bright field for the reverse mortgage industry. As we’re exploring, the desire to age in place is expanding into ever more creative ways to age in community, which may or may not mean moving from one’s lifelong residence to a smaller (or larger) home, a new area, a co-housing community, or a senior living community.

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