"For more involved questions and answers, it is helpful to provide FAQ factsheets, explainer videos, webpages or even a chatbot to allow clients to get the information they need more quickly."
The dreams of the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ - artificial intelligence, machine learning, data analytics, advanced automation and robotics, sensor technology including biometrics and the internet of things – have recently become reality as various new offerings make their way onto the market. Implementation has undoubtedly been accelerating as homeworking boosts the demand for tech ‘solutions’ in our personal and professional lives.
Aside from any home-schooling responsibilities, if you need a productivity boost in your working life or feel the need to become more efficient in your working practices, chances are that there will be a tech tool readily available to help.
Efficiency and productivity – are they the same?
Efficiency means working ‘smarter’ to save time, money and resources, whatever they may be. Not duplicating work and cutting admin tasks such as filing helps with efficiency – freeing up your time and resources to cumulatively affect the bottom line.
Productivity is getting more of the important things done consistently. For example, increasing the number of new client meetings that result in a mortgage offer, as opposed to new client meetings that result in rejected offers. This could directly be affected by the way you choose to source new clients or by the questions asked on your website – all can be honed with some careful thought to benefit your business.
How can you drive digital efficiencies in your broker business?
There’s usually a bit of to-ing and fro-ing when arranging a meeting, however tools like Calendly, Doodle and google calendar’s ‘appointment slots’ feature is an easy way to ask your proposed meeting attendee to check your calendar and book in a time to see you. This may not be appropriate for every client, but could be a real plus for meetings with lenders or clients you know well or are keen to see you.
Dealing with emails coming into your inbox can be a time consuming and thankless task. Make sure you periodically review your emails and unsubscribe to anything non-essential to declutter your inbox.
Looking at your sent items, chances are you frequently write similar messages on a regular basis. So, with a little investment of time up front in formulating some standard responses to these messages, you will save more time in the long run. You can find the functionality for keeping a library of standard responses in Outlook ‘Quick Parts’ and the functionality is also available in Gmail and other email providers.
The truth is that our own personal smartphones take up an extraordinary large part of your day. Most people are shocked when they look at the ‘digital wellbeing’ section of their phone and see how many hours they actually spend on each app or website. (This varies on different models of phone but is usually found in settings). Some phones allow you to limit how long you spend on an app. Banning or managing the time spent on addictive apps can increase your focus and your productivity.
Minimise digital disruptions
Although automated notifications on your phone and laptop can be helpful in some instances, i.e. new email received, it’s worth removing notifications for those apps that you specifically don’t need. Your smart phone and Microsoft Edge can do this, it’s just a case of following the settings for your specific device.
'If this, then that' web service
If you do need to be alerted by text when a specific person emails you or you want to talk to your Alexa to enter appointments in your calendar, 'If this, then that' can help you.
‘If this, then that’ is a free web based service which allows you to create a response to an event which could occur in a huge selection of apps. You have to set up each outcome that you want to achieve, but thinking about where you could benefit from alerts may be a useful addition to your daily life.
Clients needing mortgage advice usually have a myriad of general questions for mortgage advisors. Letting them know your FCA registration number, credentials and your fees, etc, is vital at the outset, but for more involved questions and answers, it is helpful to provide FAQ factsheets, explainer videos, webpages or even a chatbot to allow clients to get the information they need more quickly. This lessens the need for lengthy phone calls, saving your team time fielding these questions. Creating a professional library of answers to FAQs will be more efficient for you, as opposed to repeatedly explaining similar details to each new client.
Wi-fi internet speed
Buffering, lagging and glitching are frustrating features of an unpredictable internet speed.
To make sure your broadband is working at it’s best speed, shut down any pages you don’t need and turn off any device you are not using, including games consoles and those tucked away in a drawer.
There are broadband speed checking services, such as Uswitch who also offer comparison tools to help you find alternative providers if your broadband is too slow. Home workers could consider speaking to their employer about any financial support they could offer towards faster broadband; at the end of the day a small investment in increased productivity could be money well spent.
The advent of 5G
You can now access the faster 5G network in most major UK towns and cities, as well as many smaller towns and villages. However, to access the faster speeds, you’ll have to upgrade your laptop, phone and pay a premium for the service. The roll out of 5G is expected to cover most large cities and towns by 2022. It may be a price worth paying for you at the moment, particularly if you want to significantly improve the visual and sound quality of your online client meetings.
Work with advanced conveyancers
There’s no doubt about it, some conveyancers work much smarter than others. The firm that has implemented the highly praised inCase legal app will have many advantages over others who have not invested in new technology.
The secure inCase platform provides an interface for all those involved in the purchase or sale of a property - lender, broker, estate agent, solicitor, client – meaning that everyone is kept up-to-date through push notifications, drastically reducing the number of chaser emails and phone calls required.
Brokers can access a portal named ‘the Gateway’, where all communications including documents and messages can be viewed. As a broker, you can prioritise the cases you want to watch and both you and your mutual clients are kept regularly updated, further reducing time consuming follow ups.
Security and fraud prevention
As lenders may hold brokers liable if their checks are not thorough enough, significant responsibility for fraud identification rests in your hands.
Working with physical documents adds time and expense to every application and may even be slower and more frustrating during these lockdown times due to postal delays. The inCase app enables clients to scan their passport using the NFC chip reader on their phone, then the Passport Agency’s Cryptographic Signature is obtained to confirm a genuine passport. The system then undertakes facial recognition - together with a liveness test to make sure there is a real person undertaking the facial recognition. A report is then sent securely after completing electronic database checks and proof of funds search.
Print less, post less, save more
It is strangely reassuring to have a physical paper file to handle but, nowadays, it’s comparatively more expensive than the digital alternative. Again, the inCase app allows secure sharing of documents online, making missing the last post a thing of the past.
Crucially, clients can also upload their documents to the inCase app by scanning directly from their mobile phone. Making scanning documents easy and speeding up the process.
Sales and marketing
Around 51% of businesses now use some form of marketing automation. The ways in which your business reaches and retains customers can benefit significantly from advanced tech, from lead capturing to following the customer through their journey, through to aftercare - there is a wealth of information or data that can be captured to glean insights into behaviour and trends, which could help to set you apart from the competition.
Even if you gain most of your new business from professional referrals, the borrower's experience of your customer service will certainly influence your online credibility. It will only be possible to make ongoing improvements to your service if you ask for feedback at the right time and have the insight to implement the recommendations. There are many CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems on the market that can assist with this.
Cultivating future work
Do you keep in regular contact with your clients and, most importantly, contact them when their mortgage deal is coming to an end? Every broker has the ability to schedule a reminder to contact their client via an email at a set date in the future. It’s easy to see the benefit of scheduling an automated message, worded as a friendly reminder, that a client’s mortgage arrangement is coming to an end and would they like to review it?
Time to research, question and act
There’s no doubt that time is a luxury in today’s hectic world. Time may be your most precious resource, so researching, trying and testing technology before signing up to anything new, is certainly a wise move.
The suppliers you work with and the technology they adopt, their processes and objectives may also have a profound impact on your business. So don’t be shy and make it your business to question what new tech your intermediaries have implemented or are planning. Chances are they have something in the pipeline that will be of interest to you. If they don’t, in reality they are not futureproofing their business and you should seriously start to consider alternative partners.
Technology is moving forward at such a fast pace, that what you decide to invest in and who you decide to partner with, could turn into real advantages - or major disadvantages too of course. Increasing your own productivity and digital efficiencies will no doubt assist your profits, but also keep in mind how new technologies could decide who you partner with, which could also save you time, money and critically improve all your client‘s home buying journeys in the future.