So this week, Mortgage Solutions is asking: Are clients more responsive to contact now that most communication is digital and remote?
We’re quite fortunate that before we went into lockdown our business was primarily driven by remote communication, so we had the processes in place to continue monitoring clients.
We made sure they were robust in terms of identification to product us from any fraudulent activity.
There were challenges with working remotely at first due to internet connectivity and the speed of computers compared to the machines we had in the office.
Clients have been more responsive now they don’t have to arrange meetings in the office.
This is from a call volume perspective as well. Because clients have been working from home, where they previously couldn’t take personal calls in an office environment, they are able to now. Clients are calling more frequently now just because they can.
The intensity of calls means our phones are pretty much off the hook.
They have been reaching out more than usual because there is a sense of nervousness towards the market.
If we think about where things were pre-lockdown when furlough was an unheard of term and the underwriting processes taking place now, we have to convey these changes to the client and manage their expectations.
Also, a lot of initiatives are ending at the same time and it can feel like a perfect storm is ahead. So, we try to soothe the worries of clients as that’s adding to the nervousness.
This third lockdown has continued to bring opportunities and challenges to the client experience and how we operate to offer seamless service.
The move to remote and digital working has meant those working from home are noticeably more able to respond quickly with requested information and documentation.
Our clients are more familiar with video conferencing now compared to the first lockdown, when audio and video both working simultaneously wasn’t a given and we had to guide them through how to connect.
We have adjusted our approach though.
During 2020 we ensured all face-to-face meetings were replaced with video calls. This still forms the majority of client interfaces, certainly at fact find and recommendation stages.
However, it has been clearer that there is a certain amount of ‘fatigue’ with video, especially for those using it regularly during their working day.
The option of telephone and email can be less burdensome for some and keep short conversations just that. In the same way that the novelty of a family Zoom quiz evaporated, we have to be mindful that clients should be able to engage how they feel most comfortable.
As a previously almost entirely face–to–face service, we do miss the kinesthesis of direct client contact, as I’m sure the clients do too.
To continue to build and strengthen our client relationships, we have become more active and regular with client contact, via email, to help replace that more personal face to face approach.
One large benefit for all of us, is the reduced time spent travelling when you can use tech or the phone. Along with no pubs, restaurants theatres or holidays this has released much more time to get things done.
But I suspect that this extra time has largely been eaten up with some boxset binging on Netflix, there is some very good stuff on there.
I don’t think it’s changed very much to be perfectly honest. In reality most of our calls are either telephone, Zoom or Teams if we can.
How often and how long we speak to clients is still similar. They’re having the same conversations just in a different medium.
First you have a meeting then they telephone you straight afterwards anyway.
Clients have always been keen to progress things whether it’s lockdown or not.
The conversations we are having are also the same as people are pretty open with us as usual.
One of the situations we were concerned about was the possibility of clients being fraudulent because we were using remote communication.
We had a couple of incidents where people tried to adjust their income but those were isolated. I’m lucky in my team as they’re very diligent so we haven’t seen a lot of that happen.
Generally speaking, clients have been as open and honest as they would normally be.
Part of that is the ability of the adviser to have that conversation with them to make sure they get everything out of it anyway. Whether it’s existing clients or new ones.
You know what you’ve got to get to and what you’ve got to find out.