Adapting to a new workplace
Jeremy Duncombe is director of intermediary distribution at Accord Mortgages
I’m writing this from home, rather than the open plan surroundings of my usual office location in central Leeds and most of you will be reading it from your homes, rather than on the train during your daily commute, or whilst queuing for a coffee from the shop across the road.
It’s fair to say life has changed very quickly, as has our industry. The headlines are dominated by the latest announcements on policy and lending changes, economic forecasts and customers who have had their new home dreams ‘shattered’ by the seizing up of the housing market.
But I’m a fan of change. It tends to bring about new ways of thinking and more importantly, results in better ways of doing things. For those of us lucky enough to have worked in this sector a little while (!), we’ve been through tough times before and I’m confident we will come out stronger the other side.
Take for example the basic concept of communication. When the government advised against non-essential travel, we took our team of business development managers off the road.
They were to do telephone and virtual meetings only. For a team who thrive from being out and about, it was a shock, but although the number of meetings has dropped, the number of interactions hasn’t. If anything, the support and guidance they can offer has meant they are even more busy (if that’s possible!) than they were before.
Likewise, when anyone who could was told to work from home, we had to make the very difficult decision of switching off our business development advisor telephone line and the team, now operating from spare bedrooms and kitchen tables, switched to solely running our webchat function.
In the first two weeks of operation we completed almost 4,000 chats, with every chat answered and an average satisfaction score of 9.6 – a result I couldn’t be more proud of our team for achieving in the circumstances.
The key to success in these scenarios is to stop and think. Life isn’t the same for anyone, so it’s unlikely your clients will need your help in the way they normally would. Reassess your client base. Those who are currently mid-process, whether it be a purchase or remortgage, should be prioritised as they will need the reassurance and support from you during these very difficult and stressful times.
But with new purchase business virtually coming to a standstill whilst valuations are on hold, don’t forget your existing client base.
Offering them insight, guidance and showing the value of your advice will be incredibly welcome, even if they have no plans to use your services in the immediate future. They will remember your support and come back to you, possibly even recommend you to friends and family, referrals which will be incredibly valuable to building your business later in the year.
Implement new techniques
It’s also important to keep learning. This is unprecedented territory and there’s no reason why you should or would have all the answers.
The Accord Growth Series has a wealth of information, written well before this pandemic, which gives practical advice on client retention, hints and tips on simple and cost effective ways to keep in touch with clients.
There are also free to download guides on improving your website (which is now your main shop window), using social media effectively as well as guides on selling protection and supporting your client’s financial wellbeing, all of which will be more relevant than ever in the current climate.
However, the team behind the series has also created new content, specifically for the lockdown, addressing better ways to work remotely and looking at what your business might look like post-lockdown and how you can keep your pipeline strong. A new guide, ‘The broker’s guide to effective communication tools’ has just gone live, and as I write, we are recording a new series of podcasts with familiar industry figures exploring how they are adapting to this new way of working.
You may not be able to be in the same room as your client, but being on the end of a phone line, responding to emails in a timely manner and making sure your external
channels (website and social media if you have them) are regularly updated with the latest information are all vital in making sure clients know you are there to support them in these difficult times. Undoubtedly people will have questions, so this is the ideal time to check in with clients, review their situation and remind them of why they work with you.
None of us can predict how long this extreme situation will go on for, nor how our industry will adapt once we’re all back in the office, out and about and operating as we were.
However, by reviewing your offering, thinking about what your clients will want and need from you over the coming months and employing new techniques to reach out and reassure, you will give your businesses the best chance of coming out of this relatively unscathed.
This is a real opportunity to develop a strong relationship with your existing client base and set very trustworthy foundations for relationships with prospective clients.
I wish everyone the very best.