Say "millennials" in a crowded room and the words "entitled," "lazy" and "instant gratification" are likely to be thrown out. The more savvy individuals will offer another perspective: "a fantastic opportunity." Millennials accounted for one-third of homebuyers last year and that number is projected to increase in 2016. It is critical that mortgage providers understand the generational culture shift so they can capitalize on this opportunity.
Misunderstandings based on stereotypes and cultural differences create barriers both to relationships, and business growth. The invasion of technology and unprecedented access to information created a world in which only millennials and children are natives. This has fostered expectations around immediacy, opportunity, efficiency and connection.
Lender objectives are not that far off from millennials' — they simply take different paths. Here are some of the most common stereotypes and the cross-generational truths behind them. By understanding these, businesses can minimize the cultural and communication gap and work toward increasing profits.
To win in an increasingly competitive market, lenders must prove their worth by ensuring a quality experience and expertise from the very first interaction. This applies to employees as well as clients.
Millennials have high expectations when it comes to customer service, and arguably higher requirements for their careers. If one company does not offer the best experience, there is another that will. This might be an "entitled" way of thinking, but the reality is that those opportunities do exist.
I provided training for PrimeSource Mortgage around their objective to ensure the best experience for all of their customers, cross-culturally. During that time, the vast majority of the company's loan officers went to closings, and management was committed to a consistent focus on personally walking each customer home, in step with their slogan, "We walk you home." Its focus on personal relationships and customer experience is what the founder and former CEO says kept the company alive during the financial crisis when all of its comparable competitors went under.
Whether a company shares in its customers' cultures or not, it's more critical than ever that loan officers understand and demonstrate value for the diversity of experience and preferences in today's consumers.
Companies don't have to launch the most expensive technology, but executives should consider how they can improve customer experience at all levels.
With technology and availability of convenient service options, it's easy to frame efficiency as laziness. I order my groceries on Amazon, and can expect them to arrive within an hour — I also work 60 hours a week, which doesn't always leave much time for grocery shopping.
Quicken Loans capitalized on this shift in work/life balance and recently launched its controversial Rocket Mortgage app, which advertises an unprecedented eight-minute mortgage loan approval for qualified borrowers through the use of their app. Quicken representatives explained that the motivation came from growing demand for a faster customer experience that puts customers in the driver's seat.
As employees, one benefit millennials are looking for is nontraditional hours and flexible locations from which to work. They are, however, just as likely as their older counterparts — if not more likely — to work a full week. Many exceed the 40-hour work week, they would simply like more control over when and from where they work those hours.
Stereotype: Phone Obsessed
Life happens on mobile devices, so you should be there, too. Leverage text communication as an integral aspect to your customer service strategy.
We've all seen the young girl walking down the street so focused on her phone that she doesn't notice she walked right into a light pole. (Or, maybe that's just me?) We have become so attached to our phones that it seems to run our lives.
Of course, I would suggest that millennials (and everyone else) need to step away from our phones more often and be more invested in the real world — but the real world is increasingly intertwined with the digital world.
One of New American Funding's top producers, Dan Keller, utilizes a technology called Mortgage Coach, through which he sends a total cost analysis over a mobile device, providing video explanations and graphical information in the digital language of his customers. This further develops a relationship and builds trust with the customer through a convenient platform. He says, "My younger clients and real estate agents appreciate text and video communication. It takes a little work to learn new technology, but it is well worth the time it saves upfront clearly articulating loan options as well as the loyal clients and quality recommendations I get in return."
Party with us! For clients, leverage the desire for celebration and join them at the closing table or send a basket with champagne.
My real estate agent joining me at the closing table is still easily one of the top five most memorable moments of my life. My real estate agent knocked it out of the park that day. He came to closing, took my photo with a "sold" sign while I signed my closing documents, and shared that photo on Facebook so everyone else could celebrate with me. It didn't take much effort on his part, but he sealed our bond by celebrating that critical moment with me and opening the door for others to celebrate with me through social media. I have referred a lot of future business to him. (My loan officer, on the other hand, was much less memorable.)
For employees, consider incorporating some millennial cultural preferences in the workplace, such as gym memberships, flexible schedules or a weekly happy hour at work. Gym memberships can encourage a healthier workforce, while flexible schedules can also entice parents. Group events or outings foster teambuilding and boost morale.
Millennials in the workforce demonstrate a strong loyalty to companies that allow for schedule flexibility, a strong company culture (some fun at work) and value work/life balance. The majority of these workers is loyal, and put in serious hours outside of the 9-to-5.
Millennials want as much information as possible from the beginning of any purchasing decision. Offer your expertise from your first encounter with the customer and don’t shy away from complicated information. We may come to you with inaccurate or outdated information we pulled from our online search, but that gives you the opportunity to be our guide through the process — value we can’t gain from a google search. This will separate you from other competitors and build trust to develop a loyal customer.
We are a generation of information consumers, and sometimes that makes us think we know better than the professionals. When a millennial decides to purchase anything, we do extensive research online before making almost any purchase. When I bought my car, I knew much more about my prospective car than my salesman (which I had expected).
This example comes from outside the mortgage industry because it has had such a radical impact on millennial consumer behavior. CarMax has disrupted the car sales industry. Instead of being bombarded by salesmen trying to get their commission, CarMax employees are paid a set commission, regardless of the price of the car. Since they don't care which car you buy, they are much more focused on educating, and finding the right car to fit the buyer's needs.
Loan officers can follow a similar approach in the way they deliver transparent information. Consider offering education from a blog, social media or free events, further building a brand as a trusted advisor when the customer first comes across your name.
The more millennials trust you, the better off your company will be.
Kristin Messerli is the founder of Cultural Outreach Solutions.