You can’t understand service unless you understand borrowers
Mark Davies (pictured) is managing director of Link Mortgage Services
As the world’s major economies have matured, they have become dominated by service-focused businesses.
But many of the management tools and techniques that service managers use were designed to tackle the challenges of product companies.
Operational cost and time-motion studies have their place but are not the whole picture but in a world of thinning margins too many lenders treat operations as an unavoidable necessity rather than an opportunity to shine.
At Link Mortgage Services, we have made a virtue of service because our clients and their borrowers expect it. But it does not come easily.
The challenge (for every service-business) is that excellent service management begins with design. This needs an important shift in perspective that is much rarer in financial services companies than it should be as it moves the focus from the commoditised product design characteristics of interest rates, LTV, and lending criteria that buyers value, and focuses on the experiences customers want and should experience.
Service businesses usually don’t have the luxury of simply failing to deliver some aspects of their service because it all matters.
As a brand experience every time the phone rings there is an opportunity to mess it up. The trick, and it is one you will not be surprised to hear I feel we understand at Link Mortgage Services, is to understand that when service levels and costs are properly balanced and optimized, they can deliver a substantial and sustainable competitive advantage that competitors will find hard to match.
In our experience, it is by doing exactly this that we have built a highly profitable and valuable business. By their nature, service operations are often labour intensive and complex to manage.
Repetition and consistency, typical hallmarks of excellence in service operations, can work against a company that is trying to achieve step-change improvements in processes and behaviours.
Additionally, executives across many industries are finding it increasingly challenging to keep service costs in check (especially labour costs, the single largest cost component of any service operation) while maintaining service levels.
Yet the way in which we conduct ourselves is important. Consider vulnerable customers – managing vulnerability isn’t about cost control but rather service and value, it’s about being mindful and being able to be human. Technology can undoubtedly help but it is far from the whole solution.
The key exists in building a business culture that puts service first and intuitively begins to adapt and prioritize doing the right things at the right time for the right reasons.
We deal with people’s homes, their biggest asset and liability and depending on their life circumstances at any point in time.
The balance between those two positions can shift quickly and our job as the people who administer their loans is to accompany and guide them through the good and bad times for as long as they are with us. This requires thought and investment – not just money but of time and belief.
It has long been noted that business leaders only have to worry about three things; cash, strategy and culture. The hardest one is always last and building a service-oriented business is among other things a cultural task.
It does not invalidate other concerns but when it is the very thing that your business is judged upon (by regulators and markets alike) it is an incredibly important part of delivering a service proposition that is authentic and speaks for everything else you do.