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Brokers and lenders must work together for clients

I can tell you that Jonathan Burridge’s letter regarding service in last week’s issue (Mortgage Strategy October 24) received a generous round of applause from our underwriting teams.

The thrust of his argument is that service is a two-way street – lenders and intermediaries working in tandem to deliver the service everyone in the chain expects. From time to time things go awry and lenders’ service levels suffer. But the way ahead is for intermediaries and lenders to move forward together in a spirit of partnership.

In the natural world this is called symbiosis. It has worked well in nature for thousands – in some cases millions – of years. Natural selection and trial and error seem to have it covered. But on the other hand it has taken a considerable amount of time.

Service is at the centre of our lives and should be at the heart of what we all seek to deliver. Service should be first, second and third priority in all our daily working lives.

So how come every day as a consumer of the service industries, I come across downright appalling examples of service everywhere from supermarkets to high street retailers – not to mention in my dealings with the financial services industry?

There are now qualifications in customer service available including an NVQ. This seems an excellent idea. The turnover of service industries in 2004 was just under 700bn so service is of national importance.

It strikes me as odd that lenders talk continually about service yet some still find it hard to deliver. I accept that lenders do see spikes of applications depending on what products are being marketed.

But when situations such as this occur and service is affected to any noticeable degree, management should do what management is paid to do – manage the situation.

The lender should be aware that the intermediary has a customer who has expectations and needs to receive an acceptable level of service.

Dissatisfied customers can in some cases lead to an intermediary losing the cases or missing out on future business. In those situations the intermediary is the loser. Any chance of compensation? Of course not.

Is service becoming a national problem? Probably not, but it is too important to the UK economy to be taken lightly.

From the lenders’ perspective, service can no longer be a sound bite. I suspect intermediaries will be ruthless in their product selections in the future when they think of the places service has been unacceptable in the past. Best rate won’t always be best advice, especially if the client needs quick turnaround.

The situation regarding lost business and disappointed customers must improve. Lenders that have had service difficulties can always release a sharply priced rate to recover lost ground – and lost intermediary goodwill.

Depressingly, I expect service problems will still grace Mortgage Strategy’s letters pages for some time to come. But I’d love to be proved wrong.

Simon biddle

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