Brokers are client focused and will often go above and beyond to source solutions. However, they do need to know where to draw the line and how to manage clients’ expectations
Brokers can differentiate themselves from the banks by offering highly targeted personalised service, providing a diverse panel of potential lenders and going the extra mile to ensure finance is secured on time.
Many testimonials for top-performing brokers talk about the broker going ‘above and beyond’, but everyone has their limits and brokers can’t be working 24/7.
Female brokers in particular need to be able to draw a line in the sand and spend time with their families, or focus some time on themselves. On top of this, some factors – like turnaround times – are out of a broker’s control, so brokers need to know when to work, when not to work and how to manage clients’ expectations.
Andrew Griffiths, small business expert and author of The Big Book of Small Business, says this is one of the greatest challenges small business owners can face.
“Often we end up working within a schedule that suits everyone but ourselves,” he explains in his book. “It doesn’t have to be that way.”
Instead, he says, small business owners should take advantage of the unique opportunity that business ownership offers – flexibility.
“It is better to work in the manner that suits you, rather than trying to fit your life around your work,” he says.
Your business, your rules
Smart Lending’s Melissa Gielnik says even though she endeavours to do as much as possible for her clients, she has learnt the hard way that there needs to be a separation between home and work life.
“I have young children and I found that I needed to be able to switch off from work,” she explains. “I got to the stage where I would get home and leave my mobile phone in the car so that when I was at home, I was at home.”
Ms Gielnik says she now believes she has the best work-life balance of anyone in the industry. She says any concerns she had about her clients feeling neglected quickly dissipated.
“I run a very personalised business,” she says. “When people come to see me, I tell them all about me, my business, my family and my life. They totally respect that I’m a mum and a business woman.
“I set the expectation very early about what I can and can’t do. It’s all about open communication.”
Ms Gielnik says she is fortunate to have an excellent team behind her, so when she’s not in the office, her clients can feel confident their needs will still be taken care of.
Mr Griffiths says this approach ultimately benefits the business and the customer.
“Many business owners live in a state of near terror over changing anything that may affect their relationship with their customers,” he explains.
“If you change the way you work so that it suits your lifestyle and needs better, you will be much more energetic and engaging at work and your customers will get a far better level of service and a more enjoyable experience.
Affiliate Finance & Property’s Mary Sartinas has taken a similar approach to business and family.
Ms Sartinas says the more communicative you are with your clients, the more likely they are to understand the limits of the relationship.
“I have a very good relationship with my clients and we’re pretty open about what my role is – both as a business woman and as a family person as well,” she says.
“Because I form such close relationships with our clients, they understand there are certain boundaries. They respect my family time as well.”
Ms Sartinas says in most instances, her family takes priority.
“If there’s a certain event or family activity that I need to block out, I’ll make sure my calendar is blocked out for those specific times or days. But there are a few instances when the family matters have to be put to the side to accommodate any urgent matters with my clients,” she says.
“I make sure weekends are spent with the family, so I don’t typically take any weekend appointments. But on the odd occasion when I know somebody is unable to make a time during the week, I will do a special meeting on a Saturday morning with them and accommodate their needs.”
Other issues brokers can face when balancing client expectations with the realities of the third party distribution channel are delays and disruptions from lenders.
Some clients think brokers can solve all problems and can speed things up when lenders’ turnaround times blow out.
Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.
Ms Sartinas says if brokers keep their clients informed throughout the process, then borrowers are less likely to be frustrated.
“When we initially receive an enquiry from a client, we contact them within 24 hours so that they know how we operate,” she says.
From there, the individual scenario will dictate how long things take, so borrowers need to be involved in the process.
“We work out with the client what their expectations are in terms of what they’re hoping to achieve and then, in accordance with what they tell us, we’ll put together a timeframe that is realistic,” she explains.
She says client expectations and misconceptions tend to come out at this point.
“If they assume something that typically takes two weeks to complete with a lender should be done in two or three days, we’ll be very clear about those expectations,” she says.
Some brokers get into strife in this area, but Ms Sartinas says the more honest and realistic you are with your clients, the happier they will be throughout the process.
“If you keep the clients informed on a daily basis and they’re involved in every step of the process, then the expectation is set from the beginning and they know we’ve been working on the file on a day-to-day basis,” she says.
“I think the client becomes agitated and anxious when they’re not informed and all of a sudden, after a week or two, they get an update about their progress. In these cases, it’s not surprising they’d be upset if there are any further delays.”
Ms Sartinas explains the ultimate aim is to keep the client informed every step of the way.
Both Ms Gielnik and Ms Sartinas have worked hard to establish boundaries and balance their work and family lives.
After all, says Mr Griffiths, it’s your business – you make the rules.
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