When you hear the word “concierge,” you may automatically think of a hotel concierge that assists guests with restaurant reservations, spa services, tourist attraction bookings, arranging for transportation, or even simply giving directions. But what makes a great concierge so valuable?
Let’s say you are on vacation and craving a great steak. A hotel concierge recommends a five-star steakhouse four blocks away. Now suppose the concierge asks, “Is there something else you would like? Perhaps you would like steak and seafood?” By asking a follow up question – that takes into account both their domain expertise and your unspoken needs – the concierge can recommend an alternative restaurant, before offering to arrange for transportation to and from the restaurant of your choice.
“Now imagine you are at dinner and your water glass is half empty, and your server fills it even before you have to ask them to do it. That is exactly what I want our concierge service to be,” said Timothy Picard, States Title’s Concierge Manager. “Before our lender customers ask us for something, we have already offered it.”
That’s the mission of the concierge service offered by the States Title Operations team, which we affectionately call the “quarterback” of the real estate closing – a central point of contact assigned to manage every lender’s file from beginning to end.
The most important play in the concierge team’s playbook is a dedication to providing fast but thorough and complete responses to customer inquiries. This ensures that the lender gets into the end zone free of stumbles or fumbles, ultimately boosting their customer satisfaction scores (CSAT) with borrowers.
Timothy and his colleague, Vincent Cardenas, a Concierge Associate in our Irvine, California, office, shared five strategies that drive the white-glove service they provide to our lender customers.
A fast and complete response requires a concierge associate with intimate knowledge of all aspects of the closing, including the trickiest title and escrow scenarios. And to ensure our concierge associates are able to deliver prompt responses to customer inquiries – from the most granular to the most complex – States Title recruits candidates with diversified industry skill sets.
“It may be the hardest role at our company to fill,” Timothy admitted. “But if you come in with a wide range of industry knowledge and expertise, and you are passionate about delivering a delightful customer experience, you can be a rock star in this area.”
Prior to joining the States Title team, Vincent worked for the escrow company of a top title insurance underwriter for five years before switching gears to work on the title curation side of the business.
“Throughout my career, I have worn many hats,” Vincent said. “I have worked in escrow, on refinances, on home equity lines of credit, on loan modifications after the housing crisis in 2008, and even on the title and escrow side with lenders. I have a strong suit for customer service and client relations, which enables me to stay ahead of customer asks.”
Concierge associates schedule all files; coordinate closings with the closing department, notaries and borrowers; resolve ad hoc challenges; and keep the transaction moving forward. While they may seem like a straightforward customer experience on the surface, closings are always subject to last-minute changes to the loan terms or the borrower’s circumstances and availability, necessitating the need for multiple rescheduling or special accommodations.
“We hire people who are really motivated,” Timothy said. “When I started building the team, I knew I wanted to hire candidates that would never say, ‘that’s not my job.’ If a toilet needs to be cleaned, then we’re going to clean that toilet.”
At the heart of every lender service level agreement (SLA) is an extensive onboarding process during which the concierge associates gather detailed information about the lenders’ preferences for communication and service.
“We do not take a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to our lender relationships,” Timothy said. “Our onboarding process benefits all parties. We want to make sure that when we are ready to launch, you are getting everything the way you want, the way you need it. We ensure that we design the closing process in our software to account for their expectations. Our concierge associates are familiar with each customer profile and use their preferences to manage the relationship from A to Z. This enables us to predict your requests and needs – and proactively offer them before you even have to ask for them.”
The interaction between the concierge associate and the customer is based on the lender’s profile. Some lenders may only want to hear from the concierge if there is a serious issue, while others prefer constant communication and status updates throughout the closing process.
“We staff accordingly to make sure we give the exact amount of communication desired,” Timothy said.
With the mission of using machine intelligence to make residential real estate transactions simpler and more efficient – empowering lenders to close more loans, faster – States Title has built an extensive technology stack to help our associates work smarter, not harder.
“We have really good technology compared to a lot of other title companies,” Vincent said. “We lean on technology to organize files, track customer metrics, schedule events, and trigger key actions in the closing. Our clients notice how efficiently we run and we are able to get updated files and actions in their inbox before they can even say, ‘thank you.’”
In addition, States Title’s patented instant underwriting technology determines whether our forward-thinking, risk-based insurance model can be used to clear title commitments instantaneously, or if a traditional title approach is needed.
However, along with using these technologies to their advantage, the concierge team also focuses on maintaining “that human touch, that personality that makes the relationship work,” Timothy noted.
“We use technology as a tool to enable us to take action quickly, which gives us more time to focus on building relationships with our clients,” he said.
Because our concierge associates are highly trained and experienced, they are able to respond to 80 percent of customer questions within 30 minutes. If a complex title issue requires additional research, a complete response from another dedicated member of the operations team is delivered in under an hour.
“There is a commonly accepted industry standard where we as a company are expected to respond within two hours,” Timothy said. “Our response open time averages 15 to 20 minutes. By providing a complete, whole response to customer inquiries, and ensuring all documents needed are completed, error-free, and attached to our communication, we give our production team more time to respond to complex issues, which saves time for everyone in the transaction.”
“Our goal is to get the closing done as quickly as possible so lenders can move on to their next customer,” he added.”
Finally, one last important duty of the concierge team is to continuously log data that can be used to improve service going forward, ultimately boosting lender margins across our customer base. In addition, a special efficiency team performs an independent audit of the concierge team’s performance on every file.
“At the end of the day, loan officers and loan processors are not going to work with this team if they do not have positive experiences,” Timothy said. “But it’s not just our relationships with lenders that we concern ourselves with. We take all the parties to the transaction into account. The notary may not be our client, and we have no marriage to them, but in order for our client’s experience to work out well, we need to account for how they are performing in the process. If the notary is frustrated with us, how do you think they will show up to a signing? If we notice any potential issues or patterns, like vendors sending attachments via email instead of using our software integration, we bring it to the attention of a department manager. We constantly tweak the process and make improvements to ensure we are delighting our customers.”
In the next blog of this series, we will share more about the post-closing quality management of our concierge service.