Oz Was No Wizard at Customer Service

In The Wizard of Oz, the title character is beloved and revered by all the people in that magical land over the rainbow. Yet when you look at it from a small mortgage business/customer service perspective it's really hard to understand why.

In fact, the Great and Powerful Oz is probably one of the best examples of what not to do if you want to grow your mortgage business. Let's take a look at some of his mistakes, and see how an alternative strategy might suit your business better.

Be difficult to reach. In order to seek an audience with the Wizard, Dorothy and her friends must first navigate a strange and unfamiliar landscape with confusing twists and turns. It's a little more difficult than the simple advice to follow the yellow brick road. How tough are you to reach? Is your contact information (phone number and/or email) clearly spelled out on your Web site, or do you hide behind a contact form? Clients and prospects don't like filling out forms. They want to speak to a real person. Make it easy for them. Actually publish your phone and email information in the 'Contact Us" section. Even better, add a "Call us" button on the site that automatically makes the call for the client. Hide behind a gatekeeper. When Dorothy and friends finally get to Oz, they think they're going to make an appointment and see the Wizard. Instead, the gatekeeper says Oz never sees anyone. (The gatekeeper is the same actor who plays the Wizard, but I've never been sure if it's the Wizard in disguise or the movie production company saving a salary.) When clients or prospects call your business, can they get through to the person they're calling? You want to make sure your phone system makes it easy to get to the right person. A virtual phone system helps with that, because its virtual receptionist can direct callers to the right extension - even if they're not sure what that extension is. It also provides options to forward office phones to home, mobile or other phones, making you and your employees reachable even when you're out of the office.

Work in an ivory tower. Or in this case in Emerald City. The Wizard only knows his own perspective because he never sees or talks to the regular people. He thinks it makes him mysterious, which is true. But it also means he has difficulty relating to the people who need his help. It's important to maintain regular contact with clients, prospects, business partners and others so you can seek out their perspectives and points of view, and understand better what motivates them so you can deliver what they want.

Go back on your word. The Wizard tells Dorothy if she and her friends want him to grant their requests, they must first bring back the broomstick of the Wicked Witch of the West - a daunting task. When they return after fulfilling their end of the bargain, though, the Wizard starts to backtrack because he knows he can't actually do what he promised. As a small mortgage business you have to know what your capabilities are, then A) be sure not to promise things you can't deliver, and B) deliver on the things you do promise.

All that being said, the one thing the Wizard got right was creating that larger than life image. Today, small mortgage businesses have the opportunity to make themselves look larger and more professional by using tools and technologies that provide the same capabilities as those enjoyed by large mortgage enterprises.

A simple example is making your main business line a toll-free phone number. Unless you have a compelling reason that your number must remain local, having a toll-free number gives the impression you do business on a national (or at least regional) basis. It's not exactly balls of fire and floating heads, but it is impressive on a business level.

Speaking of phones, moving from employees using personal phone numbers to a virtual phone service for small business adds a lot of features and capabilities, such as voicemail, smart call forwarding, delivery of voicemail to email, recorded greetings and messages and the previously mentioned virtual receptionist, that make the business look and sound more professional. These services are available for a very small monthly cost, yet they can have a huge payoff in your ability to serve clients and prospects more effectively.

Oz may have been great and powerful, but when it came to customer service he left a lot to be desired. Learn from his mistakes and you'll have more happy customers saying there's no place like your mortgage company.

Kevin Baker is my1voice Product Marketing Manager for Protus (www.protus.com), provider of Software-as-a-Service communication tools for small-to-medium businesses. He can be reached at kbaker@protus.com. .