It’s good to talk

20 Jun 2014

It says something about the power of quality advertising that over two decades on, the sign-off from the BT adverts of that time, ‘It’s good to talk’, still sits in the memory banks. Perhaps it was the dulcet tones of Bob Hoskins – unfortunately no longer with us – delivering it but whatever it was it struck a chord and is a prime example of a ‘simple yet effective’ message that ‘did exactly what it says on the tin’.

You’ll forgive me for throwing in Ronseal as well but there are numerous other examples of advertising which gets it right.

Let’s stick however with the ‘It’s good to talk’ message because while it was used predominantly to sell telecommunications services it is equally relevant to just about every business throughout the land.

Certainly, in the mortgage market and perhaps even more so in this post-MMR environment (you’ll notice I didn’t use the word apocalypse) the need to communicate effectively has perhaps never been so important.

Of course we’re lucky in this day and age that we have so many channels of communication open to us however sometimes it is a good old-fashioned conversation that can be the right way at the right time.

This is why I was particularly pleased to see the latest initiative from Kensington Mortgages which provides a commitment for one of their underwriters to call the adviser as part of their initial assessment of the case.

This is a similar initiative to what Virgin Money has been doing with its ‘day 1 call’ and is unquestionably a recognition of the importance of ‘start to finish’ communication.

The idea is unquestionably to head off problems at the pass and to provide the adviser with much more certainty about the way Kensington see the case, their requirements and just what documents and details the client will need to be providing.

It’s very much the opposite of automated credit scoring – which of course has its place - and while it’s probably not possible or feasible for every lender (particularly the largest) to adopt such an approach it does provide a clear commitment from the outset to talk the issues through.

It may well be that what the adviser hears back from the underwriter is not to their liking however it does provide all case stakeholders with a far greater degree of certainty at a much earlier stage.

Indeed, given the decision has been made by a human being rather than a computer one would hope advisers will be able to receive a far more detailed analysis of, for example, why the case may run into difficulties and the solutions that can be engineered before it’s effectively declined.

One of the major bugbears of advisers in recent times has been the technological black hole that some cases fall into because of the nature of automated decisions and, while I’m not suggesting that all lenders look to follow Kensington’s lead for every case, one would hope there could be an increased commitment to provide greater levels of ‘human-to-human’ feedback in order to stifle some of this frustration.

In recent weeks some advisers have also been victims of wanting to talk to lenders with hold times on the phone lines appearing to grow each day.

Again, once perhaps the immediate impact of MMR becomes less intense, lenders might wish to look at all the communication channels they have open and see if there isn’t a more efficient way to allow advisers to firstly, get through, and secondly, secure the information they need.

All in all, one can’t deny that ‘It’s good to talk’ and certainly all lenders/providers and adviser members we speak to have a strong desire to communicate effectively in order to ensure log-jams/stresses/issues are kept to a minimum.

As long as we continue to recognise there should always be a role for talking to each other then we should be able to make considerable process which will benefit all of us, but perhaps most importantly of all the client.

Bob Hunt

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