This is a story of how we assumed we knew what it took to be a pioneer of customer-focused lending – and how we were wrong.
This is also a story of how we learned our lesson and started listening.
- Listening to our customers.
- Listening to our partners.
- Listening to you.
Best of all, this is a story with a happy ending: our team, working in tandem with our customers, to deliver a new gold standard lending experience.
What does it mean to be truly customer focused?
As our founder, Nima Ghamsari, put it recently, success stems from having an “incredible focus on the customer.” But what does that mean in practice?
Over the last decade, the most common solution has been: make everything digital. The digitization hysteria that followed elicited some slightly over the top reactions. If the headlines were to be believed, traditional retail was dead.
Take a look out the door, however, and you’ll realize that this just hasn’t played out. Humans are both social and stubborn — it’s part of what makes us great. We have been raised on in-person interactions and physical touchpoints. The desire for that safe familiarity isn’t going anywhere soon, especially during high-stress situations like financial decision making.
A truly customer-centric approach meets customers where they are — not just physically, but mentally and emotionally. It asks key questions. It avoids assumptions. It works tirelessly to understand goals. It is flexible. It is responsive. And most importantly, it is everywhere.
The path from assumption to listening
At Blend, we’ve worked hard to come to this realization. We’re not afraid to admit that we made some mistakes. As Nima points out, our first attempt at improving the lending experience was heavily influenced by the allure of digital-only platforms. We thought, like many others, that a digital-only mortgage pathway was the solution to consumers’ lending frustrations.
Turns out, this wasn’t quite right.
Listening closely has helped us come to a few key realizations. Lending consumers should:
- Always have access to digital and in-person touchpoints
- Receive service in the same way across all touchpoints
- Be able to seamlessly move between touchpoints
Cue today’s buzzword, omnichannel. Omnichannel is a popular term with a straightforward definition: be present everywhere.
Don’t forget, a customer in-branch and a customer in-app are one and the same. Your brand is still your brand, whether engaged with in-branch or in-app. As long as you can make this truth your operational reality, you will have made significant strides toward becoming a customer-centric organization.
But this is only one piece of the puzzle. We found out what end consumers want. What about the people on the front lines of this transformation: loan officers and branch bankers?
Our conversations with them filled in a few additional pieces:
- Human interaction is a fundamental part of our daily lives — especially during major financial decisions
- A financial institution’s ‘secret sauce’ is ultimately its brand, as facilitated by the employees devoted to serving customers and building trust
- The ideal experience is one that fades into the background, letting LOs and bankers focus on what they do best: building relationships
Tech support is a means to an end, not an end in itself
Building on our conversations with loan teams and end consumers, we have consistently invested in improving our product. Digital and physical touchpoints are centralized within the Blend platform, providing freedom for applicants and organization for lenders. We offer the best of all worlds: the comfort of traditional interaction, the flexibility of digital, and a seamless pathway between the two.
The consumer benefit here is clear — the freedom to complete steps on their terms, through whatever channel is best for them at the time, is bound to make applicants eternally grateful.
But the ability to serve loan applicants across touchpoints also makes our customers’ lives better. Loan officers and other on-the-ground lending staff depend on the connections they form with people looking to improve their lives through a loan. Omnichannel approaches increase the “stickiness” of loan applicants. Happy applicants are dedicated applicants. And dedicated applicants drive high fund rates.
In other words, at Blend, we take customer focus to the next level — not only do we dedicate ourselves to our own customers, we also dedicate ourselves to their customers.
The never-ending benefits of listening
Reflecting back on our journey to craft the best possible customer experience, one takeaway stands out. In listening (rather than, say, disrupting) we have been able to build something unique.
Our customers have become our trusted partners. The human relationships we form with them is what drives our mutual success. In turn, the human relationships they form with their customers make lending, truly, better.
We can’t wait to see what continued listening (not to mention the industry-shaping partnerships that develop when we listen) leads to moving forward.
Interested in learning more about the omnichannel features of our Digital Lending Platform? Read more here.