Friday, July 01, 2011

Another bitch about the lost art of customer service

As a part of my job covering others while they are on vacation, I get to work with pretty much everyone’s clients. It’s a good thing. I know more industry folks than most, and I’m usually able to tell someone who works with whom. I also have access to their email as a part of that responsibility, but since I’m really trustworthy, it’s fine. I don’t read their personal stuff or anything. Really.

This morning I was looking at the overnight email from the person I’m covering (who is in Mexico, which mildly pisses me off since I haven’t been in like forever), and saw an email from a loan officer with whom I have a couple of files going. I had no problem reading it because two days ago he gave me a sign that said “Queen of Everything” because I pretty much am. Anyway, his email wasn’t about the files. It was, instead, a statement about a file that he had closed in April that just failed an audit.

It was a purchase of an REO property, and the seller (the bank) uses a centralized escrow company for the processing and closing of their files. I have a personal interest in this subject because escrow is what pays my bills (and now and then gets me to Mexico..) and if local escrow branches don’t get the business then I pretty much lose my job.

The gist? Centralized escrow service = bad. Very bad.

His file failed audit because of an error that even his own company had missed, and that’s understandable, in the end, he takes responsibility for it. But he can’t call someone, and he doesn’t have anyone specific who cares about this particular file and that it’s done properly. Ultimately he is on his own.

And so is his buyer. The centralized escrow company is some-goddamned-where else, and so they use mobile notaries to sign the buyers. Random strangers that have no idea what’s been going on in the file, don’t know a thing about the buyers, don’t know what the buyers have gone through to get this house, don’t know the loan officer or real estate agents, know NOTHING except they’re meeting the buyers some place and it will take about an hour out of their day. I work with a bunch of mobile notaries – some are really good. I use them when I need to. But some suck pretty badly and so I don ‘t use them. I honestly don’t think a centralized service gives a crap about whether or not the notary is good, they just want to pump out the numbers.
Why is this sucky, besides being a threat to my bank account? Because nobody is really thinking about the buyers. You go to buy a house, first time, fifteenth time, I don’t care what it is, it’s a pretty big deal. You want somebody to be a little bit enthusiastic. You don’t want some person you have never seen before who was just picked out of a hat twenty minutes after your HUD was approved to take your drivers license number and point to the signature lines of the 98 or so pages you are going to sign. You don’t want some complete random stranger to NOT be able to explain things, to assure you it’s going to be great, to let you know you can call them should something come up. You want your hand held. You want a little customer service. Shit, we ALL do.

Centralized companies like the one this loan officer had to use think volume, not individual escrow transactions. It’s data in and data out, and then on to the next one. They don’t know the neighborhoods, they don’t know the brokers, they don’t know anything about anything but the numbers placed in front of them. I’ve closed enough escrows to know that people want to feel important, even for just an hour, whether it’s for a refinance or a purchase or sale. You cannot sit there and tell me that it doesn’t matter anymore. Customer service simply has got to matter. It just does.
So I’m mildly bitter about it, but mostly because I can’t do anything about it. Whoever makes the decisions never see the customer anyway, so they don’t care. Save the penny. All that matters anymore is money.

On a happier note, it’s sunny, it’s casual day, it’s the Friday before a three day weekend. And it also would have been my dad’s 85th birthday, so happy birthday to him!

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