The Ever-Changing World of Retail Origination

Patricia Sherlock

When discussing mortgage retail strategies for 2017, I hear two distinct camps of thought from senior managers generally based on their current responsibilities. Distributed retail managers talk about their branches while consumer direct managers speak about their centralized call centers. In mortgage banking, separate retail structures have been in place at most companies for years. In my view this separation does not serve today’s customers for the simple reason that technological advances have changed the buyer’s purchase journey.

Certainly, delivering an excellent customer experience is a hot topic in the industry.  For some the discussion boils down to having a mobile app and website with the same look and feel. For others, it is having their company’s mission statement placed on all business cards, brochures and email signatures. But visual branding does not really help customers get what they really want namely, a seamless experience!

What is a seamless experience? The customer wants the ability to shop online from a desktop or mobile device; by telephone; or in a brick-and-mortar branch. They want all their contacts with the vendor integrated so they can move whenever or wherever they want in the buying process without repeating their previous conversations.

Does this mean that brick-and-mortar is dead? Not necessarily but with the rise of the smartphone as a purchasing device, brick-and-mortar may no longer look like it once did. One case in point is e-commerce master Amazon which is planning to launch a check-out free grocery shopping experience that will employ various technological platforms. In the future, retail branches that fail to engage customers will become obsolete.

Integrating all the divergent customer channels is mandatory for companies who want to succeed in the years ahead. Separating the business lines and managerial responsibilities by type of product doesn’t work anymore because customers want to interact when and how they want. This is nearly impossible to deliver when business lines are separate and each segment is branded differently.<br><br>

One company that excels at this type of multi-channel integration is Disney. In a great article by Aaron Agius for Hubspot, the author discussed how Disney integrates its customer contact points:

“Your initial experience starts with Disney’s mobile responsive website. Even their trip-planning website works well on mobile. Once you’ve booked a trip, you can use the My Disney Experience tool to plan your entire trip, from where you’ll dine to securing your Fast Pass. In the park, you can use your mobile app to locate the attractions you want to see, as well as view the estimated wait time for each of them. Their recent release of the Magic Band program acts as a hotel room key, photo storage device for any pictures taken of you with Disney characters and a food ordering tool.” If the customer needs advice or has a question he or she can call a personal trip advisor for assistance. How cool is that!

While mortgage banking may not offer the thrills of the entertainment industry, it is challenged to think in a bigger way to deliver a unified message and customer experience. Realistically, that won’t happen unless the retail business efforts are managed as one with the goal of delivering an exceptional customer experience each and every time.

The bar has been raised in retail today. Are you ready to deliver what the customer wants? A big part of the customer experience has to be the quality of sales talent that services the customer and ongoing originator training. This investment is a must have in 2017 if you want to be successful.

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