Last week, I discussed highlights from Quicken’s IPO and how the company has achieved record growth by having a defined sales process; and training and developing employees. While these are certainly not new concepts, they are rarely practiced at mortgage banking firms. While a number of lenders claim to provide employees with a structured sales process and training, Glassdoor reviews tell a different story. According to Glassdoor, employees have rated banks as just OK. On the other hand, Quicken’s employees have rated it higher with 72% of employees saying they would refer a friend to work there vs. only 60% of employees recommending banks. How is Quicken able to accomplish this level of employee satisfaction?
Simply put, Quicken’s senior leadership believes their job is to help employees become the best version of themselves. Quicken recruits by emphasizing that it will commit world-class resources to help employees reach career and personal goals. Then, the company delivers on that promise by training employees to provide an amazing customer experience. As research has shown for years, happy employees make for happy customers!
While most competitors view Quicken as a technological powerhouse (which it is), they overlook the company’s secret weapon: Quicken has solved the problem of recruiting individuals who are willing to learn its sales process. With this strategy, Quicken can cast a wide net while others are left to recruit from the finite number of unhappy originators with a current book of business. Hiring individuals just for their book of business is the reason mortgage lenders can’t seem to rise above a 23% customer retention rate and why so many are dependent on a refinance boom to succeed. Without a refinance environment, these lenders have trouble generating a profit.
Recruiting experienced originators makes sense if an industry is stable. Unfortunately, the sales world is continually changing and a current book of business is not enough to earn repeat or referral business. Quicken recognizes that what generates referrals are employees who are trained on the latest communication and selling techniques that will actually “wow” the customer.
Quicken’s senior managers know they can’t teach personality or enthusiasm but they can teach skills. This strategy has led them to seek out employees who are matched to operate in a constant learning environment. Similarly, Quicken’s culling of the talent pool for customer-friendly originators who want to get better has made all the difference in the world. This explains why Quicken has ranked at the top of J.D. Power’s Mortgage Origination Satisfaction Study for the last 10 years. Even my hairdresser raves about how great Quicken is to deal with.
When lenders believe that it’s the originator’s responsibility to improve his or her sales skills, this approach guarantees that employees will not be current on what works to deliver an outstanding customer experience. It is wishful thinking that an annual sales trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, will improve sales results and the customer experience across the board. While some originators will improve sales skills on their own, the reality is that many others will not bother. Leaving this critical responsibility up to employees is doomed to fail.
A Deep Dive into Quicken’s Training
Let’s take a closer look at Quicken’s training strategy. The company offers a wide variety of training programs that are available based on an individual’s skill level. Employees can access more than 1,900 online courses from 100+ leading institutions including Harvard, MIT and others.
Quicken’s program for new loan officers is especially noteworthy. In its Mortgage Banker Academy, employees promoted to the loan officer position undergo Lift Off, an intense three-day training event that focuses on their new responsibilities. According to Training magazine, new LOs receive one-on-one sessions with trainers, coaches, and team leaders. Each day begins with classroom training to prepare the employee for the day. Training sessions involve a quick review of the technology and processes that will be used. LOs also receive a pep talk from a sales leader to establish the proper mindset. The new LO then works with a team leader while taking live calls and working with clients.
At mid-day, the new loan officers have lunch with trainers and coaches to discuss their morning experiences, celebrate successes, and address any concerns or needs. The afternoon begins with another quick classroom session, followed by live calls with one-on-one support. This training method continues until new originators are comfortable and effective in their new roles.
Obviously, Quicken is centralized and this approach matches to a program that can be organized and delivered to groups in one location. In my view, this is another good reason to move to a centralized organization because interfacing with employees is easier.
As any good trainer will tell you, the best training programs provide students with not just theory but practical information that they will need to successfully navigate the day. Training that is limited to the classroom or involves students sitting passively in front of a personal computer is not an effective way to teach new loan officers the business. Students need a structured day with the ability to ask questions live and get answers to the challenges they are facing. This is no different than when a football coach prepares his players for a game, then gives guidance during the game and reviews the player’s performance after the game. The same sequence is required for originators.
Over the years, research has shown that adults learn best when new information is rooted in the tactical; it involves trying out new behaviors with support and receiving real-time feedback on how to improve.
What makes Quicken different from the competition is that it has built a business around a learning strategy that delivers results. This is not cheap or easy to implement without senior management’s commitment to making the resources available for training to be successful.
If employees truly matter, as many lenders state in their mission statements, then investing in and supporting good training should be a top priority and not just lip service. It now is up to mortgage managers to follow Quicken’s lead.