How a Loan Officer Can Increase Engagement with Empathy

By Alison Barksdale03.05.2018

Imagine you are driving down the highway and see a major accident. Sirens are going off as the police, ambulance, and firefighters arrive to assist in the catastrophe. The horrific incident takes up several lanes across the highway and your car inches by the scene down the one open lane. You slow even more as you see the crunched vehicles that look like they are made of paper. You keep watching as you want to see if everyone is okay, but are frustrated as your view is blocked by a fire truck. You can’t see anyone. You keep looking. You keep driving. Suddenly you are too far to see the accident. A few car links past the scene and you’ve cranked up the radio and continue on your commute. That’s it. Never a second thought.

This isn’t to start a debate about if you should stop and help or not. It is however a call to ask yourself, how much empathy you apply to your everyday member and your everyday loan file. When a member tells you they’ve had a rough experience with their previous lender, how do you respond? When a member explains they are scared or nervous, do you listen? Do you empathize with their situation?

When a member buys a home, they are providing all of their financial information. Every last detail of their financial failures and successes. Every deep dark financial secret in the closet. As a loan officer, you see it all. And, you have the opportunity to drive right pass their fears and concerns or you can comfort them and show them you understand and care about their well-being.

A recent Gallup poll states that only 22% of mortgage buyers are fully engaged with their lender. That leaves a lot of consumers out there very uncommitted to their lender. An engaged member during the home loan process, is emotionally and psychologically attached to the lender they do business with and become loyal, vocal brand ambassadors and give the lender more of their time and business according to Gallup.

If loan officers can find ways to empathize with their members, they will build trust and grow engagement. Growing engagement is good for the loan officer and for the credit union’s long term growth. How do loan officers empathize with members?

Empathy is simply put as understanding the feelings of another individual. It may not be stopping the car for every stalled car, but it does mean stopping the conversation and expressing how you understand what the member is sharing with you. Here are some tips to help you as a loan officer engage with empathy.

1. Validate the member’s experience or feelings.

If your member is sharing with you a personal experience or detail of their lives, ask questions and listen. The member needs to believe they are the only person that matters at that very moment. Ask them how it made them feel. Ask them about the details. Give them the validation they need to feel you care about them.

2. Educate your members.

Financial matters are a very personal for most people. Buying a home heightens the emotion because every decision made either gets them one step closer to their dream in the home, or farther from it. However, an educated member can apply logic to the scenario and suddenly a hyper emotional situation can become a logical transaction with a schedule of steps. For example, explaining to them that taking out new credit causes adjustment to their credit score and could possibly cause them to delay or even cancel the loan, gives the member the opportunity to control that end result. Education helps the member control the situation and make decisions that will get them closer to their dream. Teach them and they will appreciate you and your brand.

3. Communicate.

Finding the best communication with each member shows you care about meeting their needs. Find out how they want to be communicated with and when, and follow through. It shows you care about what their preferences are and are listening to even the littlest of details. It also increases their satisfaction on the entire process by making it easy to talk with you.

Empathy is key to encouraging a positive loan experience for your members and ensuring a high level of satisfaction. It shows members they are more than a file to you and that you are looking out for their best interest.

Alison Barksdale is assistant vice president of marketing for CU Members Mortgage. Reprinted with permission from Credit Union Resources, a CUSO that provides business solutions to members of the Cornerstone Credit Union League. Reprinted with permission.