Michael Allison, operations director at Roma Finance, explains how improving the customer journey helps both borrowers and brokers
Many lenders will say that improving the ‘customer journey’ is important to them, but what do they actually mean?
And are they walking the walk or just talking the talk?
At Roma, the customer journey really is a priority for us. It starts at the point when a borrower first engages with us through to when they exit the loan (and hopefully come back to us for their next project).
And it covers every bit of contact they have with us in between.
Why it matters
That journey from start to finish happens with any customer in any business. Making it better really matters.
We want customers to know they’re dealing with a lender that isn’t just trying to get their business in, but supporting them all the way through to a successful exit and giving them the service we promised at the outset.
This is important because, although customers initially deal with our sales and underwriting teams, they actually spend most of their time with Roma’s servicing and exit management departments. These post-sale teams account for the majority of the customer’s journey with us, so it’s important that we make them as good as we possibly can.
This means considering the exit of the loan from the outset, then helping borrowers stay on track to fulfil what they want to achieve, which is usually creating wealth from property.
How we ensure a smooth journey
Roma’s goal is to build and maintain relationships with borrowers, not to tick through a task list.
Obviously, a seamless customer journey is a way for us to manage emerging risks and become more efficient. But we also see it as an opportunity to create deep, long-lasting relationships with borrowers. We want them to know they’re dealing with a highly skilled organisation they can trust, both on their current project and future ones.
We do this through one of our business’s key pillars – clear, transparent communication.
This means keeping the borrower and broker informed at all times and communicating clearly within the business too.
When our sales team hands over to underwriting, we’re aiming for the least friction by transferring all of our knowledge, not just sending over an application form. We explain the reasons we’re doing the case and any potential risks.
Our underwriter makes a similar knowledge transfer to the servicing team, ensuring they know of any assistance the borrower might need or any specific checkpoints required on the way.
It’s important that our borrowers don’t have to explain themselves over and over again as they move through different stages of their journey with us.
Outcomes of a good customer journey
Firstly, our borrowers become promoters of Roma Finance, because they’ve enjoyed great service and created wealth from their property project, so we get strong levels of referral business.
Secondly, we retain customers as they come back to us for their next project. We have borrowers on their 20th loan with us.
Thirdly, our approach helps to keep defaults exceptionally low because we anticipate problems and work with customers to overcome them.
This is a win-win for borrowers and brokers because we all get the outcome we want and brokers continue to give us quality business.
Of course, there are always times when things don’t go to plan, despite all the contingencies and careful planning. Bad weather, delays with materials or even disastrous mini-budgets can all derail the best-laid plans.
At Roma, our focus on the customer journey helps us to navigate any challenges. If there’s a problem, we get the original team back together, including sales and underwriting alongside servicing.
We work together to find ways to support the borrower. That can be anything from an extension on the loan, more money to finish their project, utilising additional security, or more practical support on the project from our own experts or third parties.
Things can change quickly, both individually and across the market. We’re fortunate that, because we have strong relationships with our borrowers, they come to us early if they hit problems on their project, so we collaborate and work out the best way forward.
We also look at what has gone wrong and why, to see where we can improve and prevent future problems.
Our focus on the customer journey means borrowers get the same great service from the outset to their exit, with problems anticipated and mitigated as they arise.
It’s simply the right way to operate, but it’s also good for borrowers, brokers and our own business too.