Lessons brokers can learn from ‘Tidying up with Marie Kondo’

Conor Murphy

March 13, 2019

Conor Murphy is chief executive of Smartr365

A new trend has taken hold of the nation – ‘Tidying Up’ with Marie Kondo (pictured). Kondo, the Japanese ‘tidying up’ consultant, is a best-selling author and has her own hit Netflix series in which she helps people to remove unnecessary clutter from their lives.

Kondo has a unique method for tidying – the ‘KonMari’ method – which focuses on reducing clutter, increasing awareness of valued items, making decisions on what to keep, and prioritising items that ‘spark joy’ – all with the aim of achieving ease and simplicity in daily life.

While Marie Kondo primarily focuses on the home, there may be some important lessons here for brokers too. By reducing complexity, increasing efficiency, and focusing on the activities that deliver the most value, brokers can ensure they maximise their business performance and client retention.

Lesson 1: Accessibility

Kondo’s tidying strategy contains a specific method of organising clothing in a way that makes each item easily accessible, so that people can quickly find what they need. A broker’s files should be organised in the same way, no matter whether the business is big or small, and especially if paper-based processes are still in use.

Old or irrelevant files should be discarded once the mandatory storage period has expired, for example, and the ones that remain should be reorganised in a clear, simple way which ensures maximum visibility and ease of access. End-to-end broker technology platforms can make this process much easier, as they are designed to automate this process and take the pain out of maintaining accurate client records.

Lesson 2: Look at everything together

Marie Kondo’s clients are encouraged to assess every piece of clothing they own at the same time so they can decide what they really care about and what can be discarded. So why shouldn’t brokers do the same with their processes and data?

New digital solutions can help enormously here. Smartr365 recently launched its MortgageKanban, which is Japanese for ‘card’ or ‘visual signal’. This solution breaks down the mortgage process into a series of simple steps, with client cases held in a single workflow. Brokers can even monitor progress in real time as each step is completed.

It is a very visual and intuitive way of working and adheres to Marie Kondo’s instruction to remove clutter. Automation plays an important role here by taking on time-consuming, low-value tasks while freeing up time for brokers to put their effort into value-creating processes like advice.

Lesson 3: ‘Spark joy’

Marie Kondo tells her clients to focus any items that ‘spark joy’ – and the same advice applies to brokers too. Few things spark more joy in brokers than gaining new clients and helping them secure their first or forever home. But how can brokers know which customers are the most valuable?

The Pareto Principle tells us that 20% of a firm’s customers represent 80% of its sales. So how can brokers focus on the 20% of customers who are essential to the business? There are actually several ways to achieve this goal:

  • Dive into data – brokers need to make the most of the customer information they have available – what are their hopes, fears and property dreams? Which sports team do they support and where do they like to go on holiday? Nothing replaces the personal touch!
  • Review regionally – where are the most profitable clients based? Is there a reason a broker is performing strongly in that particular area?
  • Find their niche – which types of customers are the best match for the firm? Those are the ones that brokers will likely do their best work for
  • Nurture repeat clients – customers that always come back and require little maintenance can be among the most profitable and mustn’t be taken for granted

Tidying up shouldn’t be confined to a half-hearted spring clean once a year. A fully functioning, ‘tidy’ back office is vital for continued high performance, especially as more and more borrowers choose to lock into longer-term fixed mortgages, which reduces transaction volumes and therefore the opportunities that brokers have to engage in regular conversations with clients.

It’s essential to maximise every opportunity to make sure clients keep returning – and decluttering like Marie Kondo is the first step in doing that.

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