Customer service expert shares strategy to help brokers cope with client frustration
Brokers have faced a lot of stress and anxiety over the past 12 months dealing with the uncertainty of COVID-19 and the unreliability of SLAs from many lenders. Loan Market executive chairman Sam White recently told MPA he thought broker burnout was the biggest issue facing the industry due to blown-out turnaround times and a heated property market.
While brokers have been bending over backwards to line up finance for their clients in a timely manner, customers have been hit with the stress that comes from not knowing whether their home loans will get approved in time for settlement – and, in many cases, brokers have been copping the brunt.
Jaquie Scammell is a customer service expert with 20 years’ corporate experience in event leadership, and is the author of the books Service mindset and Service habits. She is also a qualified yoga and meditation teacher. She told MPA she recently experienced this scenario firsthand as a customer buying a property.
“We had a 30-day settlement - it was a pretty tight turnaround,” she said. “At the end of the day, we were relying on this tight turnaround and it just kept blowing out and blowing out.
“This broker was doing the best he could. He was making himself available late at night, first thing in the morning – you just got the sense that he was literally on 24 hours a day. I was quite concerned for his wellbeing.
“I could see him going so far outside of what you think of as good boundaries in business hours and meeting us anywhere - he even brought his son down on a Saturday to sign something.”
But while broking is a stressful profession at the moment, there are ways that overworked brokers can look after themselves to ensure they maintain good mental and emotional wellbeing throughout the trials of the market.
Scammell said customer service was all about energy management rather than simply time management. Looking after your own energy, or Shakti, was key.
“It’s important for brokers to remember that the human body is like a battery,” she said. “Our energy throughout a day will dip and rise and we need to recharge. We need recovery, we need to pay attention to when we are under stress; pay attention to when we’re strained or our cup is empty, and we need to have some tactics and tools to replenish ourselves - not just at the end of the week, but throughout a working day.”
She offered three ways for brokers to look after their energy levels.
Do “emotional audits” throughout the day
This involves pausing and taking notice of the way you feel several times a day.
“Ask yourself a couple of questions, like ‘what am I feeling right now?’ ‘What do I need right now?’ ‘What do I want right now?’” she said. “It could be something as simple as, ‘I need to go for a quick walk around the block’, or ‘I need to go and get myself a nice cup of tea’, or ‘I need to step away from the computer screen for five minutes.’”
In any case, the habit of pausing and tuning in is a practice that can help you monitor and take charge of your energy needs. Scammell recommended setting up reminders to do this every 90-120 minutes of the day.
Given the busy nature of the gig, a broker may not have the luxury of taking an hour, or even half an hour off for lunch.
“But grabbing lots of microbreaks throughout the day is really smart,” said Scammell. “And it’s not just about grabbing them, it’s about mastering them.”
In order to master a micro-break, she recommended focusing on the quality of the break rather than the time allocated.
“The way we master them is doing a microbreak in a way that is actually energising you and refueling you,” she said. “I have a tactic where I make a cup of tea or coffee and I let it steep or pour the coffee through a filter so I’m actually forced to stand there and watch the coffee drip. It’s actually slowing me down through the act of making that coffee or tea.”
She said getting away from digital throughout the day was crucial for ensuring the quality of micro-breaks. Standing bare feet on the grass was another way to recharge, she said.
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Let go of customers’ fears
Rather than letting the frustration, anxiety or anger of a customer who is facing uncertainty around their property purchase rub off on you, there is a way to let go of these emotions and protect yourself from the emotional fallout.
“If you find yourself under stress or concerned or overwhelmed about the customer’s anxiety and you are feeling their energy rub off on you, ask yourself in any moment, is this useful for me?” said Scammell. “Is it useful for me to keep worrying and thinking about this or is there a more useful way of thinking about it?”
She explained that this was a mindset tactic that enabled the thinker to have space from the thought and correct course accordingly. In other words, to let go and focus on something more positive.
“When we let go of things, we’ve been able to have the ability to see space between the thoughts that aren’t helping us and shift them so they are more useful,” she said.
Scammell recommended taking a four second breath deep into the belly and exhaling slowly while doing this in order to relax the body at the same time.