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Bah humbug to bad lender service

In case you hadn’t noticed, this time of year is considered (advanced warning to those with a low political correctness threshold) the ‘season of goodwill to all persons’. You could be forgiven for feeling someway short of your normal yuletide spirits. Season of goodwill? Not a chance if you are a mortgage intermediary.

At times I expect that many intermediaries can begin to identify with Ebenezer Scrooge and his feelings about the festive season. How come there is so much humbug around? Take for example the one thing that intermediaries tell me they need first, second and third – good, efficient service. Yet to read the letters pages, one would think some lenders have completely ignored this fundamental.

It would be easy for me to indulge in cheap shots regarding the competition and some of their severe service problems. I will avoid the temptation. This issue remains far too central to the industry for such a self-indulgent approach. The fallout of service problems are immense and have long-term effects. The accepted business model of using intermediaries to distribute products is a straightforward connected chain, each part delivering on their part of the accepted bargain.

The real victims in severe service situations are of course the borrowing customers. A frustrating experience with a lender will land itself on one individual’s doormat, that of course being the intermediary. This can range from losing customers through no fault of your own, not getting any recommendation business and in some cases receiving a sullied reputation locally. How exactly did you end up here? By recommending a lender that failed in the most basic part of the business relationship – delivering an acceptable level of service.

It’s great to have a competitive product range, but it all comes to nought if the systems and staff are not in place to service the resultant business. In a way you could reverse the argument and say intermediaries would rather have outstanding service than a hot product of the moment. There can be few excuses for taking weeks to read a letter, process an application and in a few cases to return a phone call. Lenders that find themselves in this position will ultimately pay a high price in reputation terms.

That’s just the service angle, but with everything that regulation entails, what of 2006? One thing you can bet on – we will be out there delivering what our customers need, or rather cynically, some of us will. One thing that has always impressed me about those that work in the industry is that they are resilient and positive people. I am looking forward to 2006 and will be preparing for the new year with a few large gin and tonics. On that seasonal note, I wish everyone in this industry a happy Christmas and a prosperous 2006.

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