The Value of Communication
Recently, we closed a mortgage loan for a customer buying a house out of state through a 1031 exchange. 1031 exchange transactions are regularly stressful for people because they involve a limited window of time, sometimes multiple (3 or 4) transactions, and often include renovation projects - in short, there are more moving parts than a simple purchase and for that reason, usually more stress.
Our situation was no different - we had a limited period of time to get a relatively difficult loan completed - lots of explanations needed for various funds moving around, and to make matters worse, a listing agent that would let you know exactly how many years she's been in the business and just how many transactions she does as a top producer at any moment she had the opportunity.
To be honest, the process was not our typical process. If I had to grade our delivery, I'd give us a solid C, maybe a C-. I'm not OK with anything less than an A+, but in this instance, we had a few things happen that were very out of the ordinary.
After each closed loan transaction, we deliver a quick survey to our customers - as with my grading system, if we get a 4.9/5, it means we have room for improvement. 5/5 is our goal, every time.
For this customer, we missed our close of escrow by a day (this was partially our fault, we weren't notified of a deadline for funds to transfer until that deadline had already passed so same-day closing was moved to next-day), and were at that stressful place of "everyone call, text, and email repeatedly as if it will magically move things faster" that no one wants to be at. What a cluster....
Now one thing that anyone that works with me knows is that if something is not OK, there is potential for delay, or any issue at all, I'm not one to turn off my phone or forget how to answer. I'm also not the "wait until things are FUBAR before letting anyone know" type. If there's even potential for delay, I communicate that, because it gives everyone involved time to make arrangements if necessary and possible. Many loan officers I know struggle with this part of the business, choosing instead to work as hard as possible pushing until things truly are FUBAR and then they let the others know at the last minute. I choose the former as it leads to honest conversations where I can lay out potential outcomes and let the interested parties choose the best route forward for them.
In this case, imagine my surprise upon receiving a 5 star review from both our buyer AND her agent. Did they say it was the easiest most enjoyable transaction either had ever been a part of? Nope! But the buyer said that our team worked tirelessly, which we did. The agent mentioned the high level of communication and our complete transparency, which we offered.
In the end, it didn't matter to them that the transaction wasn't 100% as pleasant as we all would have liked. What mattered is that they were aware of exactly where things are so that even when challenges popped up, they were able to address them, and no one was left in teh dark or sitting at a closing table wondering if they were going to close.
While we strive to offer that same level of communication and transparency WHILE making the process as fast, easy, and pleasant as possible for all of our customers, I think that communication is more valuable than the fast and easy part. When there are delays, as long as people understand why and how we're resolving those delays, they can rest easy and trust us to work. And while I'd never argue that execution and results aren't the most important aspects of a service based business, I would argue that communication skills and the ability to confront adversity head on are nearly equally as important. Based on the reviews, the others involved in this transaction would agree.
We're really, really, really good at what we do. But we're not perfect. I hire people that have no disillusions about being perfect, but people that are striving toward perfection and in the process delivering a customer experience that far surpasses others who are content with their "perfect" system.
And we're always, always looking to get better - a faster process, and easier way for customers to do things, new ways for Realtor partners to be involved - this means learning new technology, processes, and scripts that ultimately lead to a learning curve and the challenges that presents. We're also looking to grow - that means hiring new team members, training, and working through the mistakes and challenges that those new to the industry always run into. Does that leave us short of perfect? It does. But would I have it any other way? Absolutely not. And through the challenges, the growing pains, and the 'less than perfect' transactions, myself and my team always, always answer the phone. Communication is our keystone, and it's incredibly rewarding to see customers and business partners that are on the same page.
You don't always need to be perfect - but you need to be good, and you always, always, ALWAYS, need to effectively communicate, even when the news isn't the news you want to deliver.