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Break the boom and bust service cycle

It’s a new year offering new challenges and I bet you can’t wait to get stuck in. But hold on. Perhaps we ought to do things differently in 2007.

How about starting with Treating Customers Fairly and moving the idea onto something different? Why don’t we as an industry roll out a fresh initiative called Treating Intermediaries Fairly?

Lenders take note, as a core part of your 2007 TIF strategy, for starters you could commit to do what you say and offer excellent service. And for good measure, why not turn cases round in an acceptable time?

It’s depressing that in 2006 the same old service issues were being raised by intermediaries. Familiar annoyances included not being able to get through to anyone, not being able to talk to decision-makers and it taking weeks for anyone to even look at applications. Let’s hope the TIF approach to intermediaries gathers pace.

And there is a serious side to this. Lenders’ failure to deliver much more than a basic level of service costs intermediaries money not only in wasted time but in some cases also in lost business.

It might be worth reminding brokers that they have considerable power, especially when they group together. Take the online intermediary forum 1bigtable. co.uk for example. This website brings intermediaries together to share their experiences. Lenders take note – there is now nowhere to hide. Provide unacceptable service and the word soon spreads. With this forum, negative feedback gets around fast.

No doubt there will be more than a few nervous lenders keeping an eye on this website but it cuts both ways. Where an excellent experience has been noted, that is posted too.

It’s hard to fathom why service is still such an issue for some lenders, given the level of technology that is now available. While for many lenders volumes have been consistently breaking records, there is no excuse for some of the poor service experienced in 2006.

There are peaks and troughs of business and these are generally manageable. But some lenders seem to suffer service problems that last for months.

This is not sustainable and brokers tend to vote with their feet. As volumes begin to fall another sharp rate is released to the market to provide a quick boost. And guess what? The resulting rush of business creates more service problems. It’s a not-so-virtuous cycle of service boom and bust. Perhaps brokers, as part of their TIF strategy, should be more circumspect in supporting lenders who have let them down.

There was much to celebrate in 2006. But let’s all work together to make 2007 the year of excellent lender service.

Simon biddle

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