Upskilling is becoming a buzzword in today’s market. Mortgage professionals looking to get more purchase volume don’t investigateQM Lending, commercial relocation, and even licensing in complementary businesses. While professionals try to acquire hard skills themselves and in their teams, a branch manager emphasizes that this industry must pay attention to its soft skills in view of the current market conditions.
Joel Richardson (pictured) is the Store Manager at PrimeLending in Austin, Texas. His market was set on fire due to the influx of overseas buyers and giant tech companies, meaning borrowers are struggling to secure a home more than ever. Given the challenges of the market, he said that many are giving up their dream of owning a home altogether. To get these clients involved in the process and believing that they can achieve their dreams, a loan officer needs to be quick and understand multiple loan programs. However, Richardson believes it is even more important that they bring an important soft skill to the table: empathy.
“For people who are offering their fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh homes without getting an accepted contract, all you have to do is help them, be empathetic and just say, ‘Hey, it’s not you, it’s not your agent, it is What happens to everyone? “Said Richardson. “This is a personal business that I think people need a lot of empathy and communication throughout the process. We’re really working on the old fashioned listening skills, timely responses and being there for them when they need you. “
As a store manager, Richardson recruits for empathy and teaches his team. He believes empathy is an emotional skill that is sorely lacking in much of our world today, well beyond the housing market. Therefore, he teaches his team to listen carefully, understand and show the client that he can feel his pain.
Recruiting for empathy is a little more difficult. This requires a whole host of other soft, intuitive skills as Richardson examines the responses and behavior to determine if someone is presenting a veneer or if they really care. One way to determine this is to ask if the prospective loan officer has ever had to tell someone that their loan will not be approved after they have already decided on a home. This is difficult news, Richardson said, and it should be almost as heartbreaking for the loan officer as it is for the borrower.
Richardson stated that a sensitive loan officer would spread these messages over the phone or face to face, never through anything as impersonal as an email. In addition, they must demonstrate that they have worked in step with the borrower’s interests at every step. The empathy that drives a loan officer should show in their dedication and work. When a loan failed because the loan officer was lazy or at the last minute, they weren’t really working with empathy. However, if they can communicate the right level of commitment and work, they can mitigate the blow of a customer’s disappointment.
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When a customer is really disappointed, Richardson believes that there is one thing he must never do. In his opinion, you should never transfer responsibility back to the customer. If you blame any of their documents or any aspect of their application, they can toss it in the face by asking why you didn’t address the problem in advance. A truly empathetic loan officer should be willing to stand up and take responsibility for a customer’s disappointment like a professional.
“If a customer who is about to blow up is really angry and you’ve done all you can, you’re just a punching bag,” said Richardson. “You have to vent and you are the face of the system that didn’t approve it. So, when you are ready to get those good commissions, sometimes you need to be ready to dig into your guts. “