If "Professional Relationship" and "Streamlined Process" were to run a race for consumer preference, who would win? Do we dare even ask the question? And is it fair to say that one is more likely to be found locally while the other is better located online?
About two months ago, we decided to refinance our home loan...not to borrow more money but just to get better terms on the loan we have. Our current loan is carried by one of the big banks whom we've also personally banked with locally for over 20 years. It made sense to start the refinance conversation there. "Thank you for thinking of us!" our friendly bank manager said. "For you guys, the process should be really simple and easy. I'll put you in touch with one of our top loan officers, a specialist, who will take good care of you." A quick hand-off...ok, we understand, makes sense, but our "professional relationship" may have just left the room.
The loan officer contacts us and we begin the process. We start with a loan app, copies of tax returns, a personal financial statement, and a credit check. We provide same day turn around for each request. Several days pass. We're a bit bugged because they've pulled a credit check even before giving us an offer related to the terms of the new loan. We follow-up. After several calls, we find out that our loan officer has left the company. A junior loan officer, subject to a faceless superior, picks up the file.
Over the next few weeks (yes, weeks!), we are inundated with requests for additional information and clarifications. We begin to ask, "When will this process end...?" We check in with our "professional relationship" and he still loves us but has little power to override the process. We are now receiving emails with clips of the faceless superior's requests wrapped in junior loan officer urgency...yuck. And then it happens...we reach "horrible service" saturation. We're done!
Call it "knee-jerk" but our immediate next stop is a well-known online lender. Within 24 hours, we're approved and offered terrific new loan terms. Who cares that our loan officer is located several states away. In hindsight, I find it interesting that we didn't even consider contacting another lender in our neighborhood.
Like many consumers in today's time-starved world, we launched with loyalty and professional relationship but ended up buying streamlined process.
The insurance world operates very similarly. Insurance consumers want their need met quickly, without hassle, and to be treated like royalty in the process. Too often, that just doesn't happen. And when it doesn't, the opportunity is likely to become a lay-up shot for an online sale.
The question is...When they search online, will they find us? And what does our streamlined process look like? I think I know. More on that next week...
Lynne Wallace is the CEO and president of VANTREO Insurance Brokerage and co-founder of NDOI, the National Directory of Insurance.
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