When Kory Kavanewsky, branch manager and loan officer at CMG Financial in Coronado, California, talks about customer service, it’s not the typical ‘lots of communication!’ ‘Closing on time!’ that many originators think of as being key to their business. For Kavanewsky, the customer’s perception is reality, regardless of what anyone thinks on the lending side of the transaction.
“If they think it took too long, then it took too long. If they think it was frustrating, then it was frustrating and we didn’t do something right. And I’m very self-critical and I’m very critical of others as well, I suppose, but if someone is not 100% thrilled, then we screwed up,” he said.
His team at CMG doesn’t wait to close a loan before assessing what could be done better. Instead, they constantly ask clients how they’re feeling about the experience and what they could be doing to improve it.
“It may be great for you and it may not be great for someone else. Someone else wanted more communication, someone else wanted to be left alone. So hearing your customers, listening, asking, inquiring, and doing something about it. We are obsessed to that level. We don’t just make it good the way we would like it, we make it good the way they want it.”
With $133 million closed so far in 2018, Kavanewsky is on track to get to his goal of $150 million in volume this year, which would be a nearly 23% increase from his 2017 total.
If you ask him how he gets that kind of volume, he’ll tell you that his differentiator is his work ethic. ‘Hard work works’ is his motto and he lives it every single day.
“As an originator it’s easy to have a good month (or it’s not that difficult to have a very good month), but to have a record breaking month month after month after month, when others are drowning and dying, that’s what it takes,” he said. “I’m not going to let up because the market’s changing. In fact, I’m going to double up because the market is changing. That’s my attitude. 2019’s going to be someone’s worst year and it’s going to be someone’s best year and work ethic is going to have a lot to do with that.”
He works all the time, he says. 65-hour weeks, he says. There is, however, some nuance in that number. Although he makes himself available to clients, typically the late or last-minute calls, emails, or texts happen when there’s a true need and he works hard to eliminate that need. The caveat to being available 24/7 is to be preemptive.
“Here’s the thing: if you do provide amazing service and you do show people huge effort, then you tend to get less of that anyway,” he said.
During an initial conversation, Kavanewsky tells new clients that the process is going to take a while, they may have questions at inconvenient times, and because those questions are very important to him, he will make himself as available as possible at any given time. Rather than being expected to talk to a client at any given time, those who do call during off-hours are much more apologetic, flexible, and understanding.
“It’s funny, when you tell someone that you’re available and that you’ve got kids and you will break away for things like that, [they say] ‘I don’t want you to do that.’ My life is not constantly work all the time but I’m there for it when it needs me and it doesn’t bother me at all,” Kavanewsky said.
Kavanewsky has gotten to the point in his career where he’s coaching and doing speaking engagements, which he finds personally fulfilling. He was a featured speaker at a recent Sales Mastermind event, and his message was that of overlooked opportunity; Originators want to engage in all of the buzz-worthy techniques and trends while ignoring the basics.
“Loan officers and sales people in general tend to chase shiny objects,” he said. “They want to go chase down a bunch of people that they don’t know, somehow, and try and make them customers and at the same time they completely ignore the people that say I love you and that are customers. It makes no sense. I think that social media’s great, I think that helping realtors with lunch and learns is great, but don’t do those things before you get your basics down.”
One of the big basics for Kavanewsky is having a database and maintaining it religiously. Whether an originator has five clients or 5,000 clients, an originator won’t be able to touch those clients again and again as they grow if it’s not a priority to add to and organize that database.
In the near future, Kavanewsky expects business to be tougher for more originators than it has been in many years. Some people, he says, master ways to work less and become more efficient. But, he says, that’s not what origination is about.
“It’s a very scrappy, get in there and hustle sort of business . . . The past few years, you could get away with being 50% and still do well,” he said. “We are back to a point there where’s there’s a ton of people in the mortgage business and it is going to be a year of survival for a lot of folks, and I think if you work really hard, harder than you’ve ever worked before, then I think your chances are very good. But I think if you continue to what you’ve been doing, then expect that your results will not be as good.”
Automate and delegate, sure, but origination is not about being a bystander. It’s about rolling up your sleeves, getting your hands dirty, and showing that effort every step of the way.