Technology is often at the forefront of all minds, particularly when you’re an intermediary lender and you want to provide the right online services to deliver the efficiencies that advisers (and their clients) crave.
I read a recent piece focused on the area of lender tech and the different ways, different lenders approach it, particularly in terms of the communication aspects of lending, and delivering the right information via the right channels to advisers.
In the piece it was suggested that, were advisers not to use some of the tech ‘solutions’ offered by lenders – preferring to opt for more traditional methods of communication like the old dog and bone – then lenders would be forced to step back from such offerings and put their resources into call centres and the like.
It seemed to me an odd approach to take. Advisers are not using the tech we supply so instead of asking why they’re not using it, the lender tells the adviser to start using it or it will disappear? If the adviser isn’t using it, I’m not so sure they would give a stuff if that service disappeared – it suggests to me that the service needs to be improved.
The problems of course is that there is a tendency to be blinded by science when it comes to technology. I’m sure we’ve all sat in a room with ‘the next big thing’ in terms of tech-based adviser communication. Tech that will revolutionise the world for both sides and will mean less human resources need to be involved.
This works from a basis where you consider human resource within the communication process to be somehow bad, when from my experience, every single adviser I talk to wants to be able to communicate with human beings and be provided promptly with the information they ask for.
They don’t mind how it happens – whether it’s via email, phone or a lender website ‘Chat’ function, they just want it to be a prompt response and they want the information to be accurate to allow them to progress their cases.
Part of where I think we can fall down is in trying to take the human element out of communication, when in fact it should be the focal point around which technology is based.
We, at Fleet, for instance operate a ‘Web Chat’ via our website but that Chat is ‘manned’ by real members of staff – which can often surprise advisers – who are able to answer individual queries on specific matters, and are not simply going through a tick-box exercise which involves offering ‘set information’ rather than case/query-specific information.
I can think of nothing worse as an adviser to be offered one of those ‘Web chats’ which purport to have a real person at the end of them but are actually a glorified FAQ system, reviewing key words within a question and providing that information which is already readily available on the website and not under the guise of a ‘Chat’.
Technology undoubtedly adds so much to our process and the gains it has provided within the mortgage advice process can not be denied. However, what advisers tend to want is the opportunity to ask specific questions and get specific answers, absolutely pertinent to their case. It’s why we also offer advisers the chance to speak to our underwriters because, why not?
That level of contact with the person underwriting the case is often crucial in getting a case moving forward through to completion in the quickest time possible. Essentially, we want to ensure the tech is based on the people who work here, and works for the advisers who deal with us.
If it doesn’t then we’re not going to expect you to use it, and it’s us – rather than you – who needs to think again about why that might be the case. If technology isn’t the enabler it specifies it’s going to be, then it’s not the adviser who is getting it wrong, but the lender.
Steve Cox is chief commercial officer at Fleet Mortgages