In retrospect, she is probably going through a Mercedes experience, anyway. It is wonderful when you pick up your new one but, all too often, when you drive your new car off the forecourt, you suddenly realise that it is not nearly as well made as the previous model and, when it comes to after-sales service, you are dealing with a process that has a veneer of customer service but poor real service.
Our market has put much effort into online decisioning and many of our lenders are now making product access much more visible, transparent and an absolute delight. The dreaded valuation process may even improve with the rapid growth in the use of automatic valuation models. Nevertheless, it is all still breaking down and you sometimes shudder as much in dealing with lenders’ administration as you do in driving in for your car’s service.
Money laundering is the new barrier to efficiency in our industry, with some totally bizarre interpretations being placed on it by some of the lending groups. If you do not deal face to face with a client, neither a passport nor a driving licence is an acceptable proof of identity for some. They will quite happily take a bank statement as proof of address but will not allow us to say that a passport is a true copy while acknowledging that we have not met the customer. Somebody needs to explain carefully to me why a utility bill or bank statement, which an ardent fraudster can buy via Exchange & Mart, is a more valid proof than a passport. It is another demonstration that in reengineering their business processes, lenders are still failing to recognise the realities of modern mortgage distribution.
Of course, something goes wrong with your new car the minute you drive it out of the garage, just like lenders failing to collect initial direct debits and double-charging customers for administration fees. A wonderful way to create a harmonious new relationship.
So when we, the salesmen, encounter the understandably irate customer, we immediately escalate it through the service manager. In the time-honoured service manner, they react positively and immediately sort out the problem – or so they say. The moment the customer has driven away from the dealership for the second time, you get another communication from them saying that they have just had a letter, reinforcing what was said in error the first time.
Perhaps we should have our mortgages made in Japan, where they get it right the first time and you never even have to worry about going back to the garage to have it repaired.
Of course, there is another Mercedes analogy current in the market at the moment. Suppose you bought your first Mercedes some 20 or so years ago and it has since acquired classic status. You have ridden the market like a complete expert and are just buying it back for at least the second time, having sold at the top of the market and bought at the bottom.
We all know that Mercedes go on for longer than most cars but, regrettably, without care and maintenance they eventually run out of steam. So although you bought back a classic with a brilliant brand name and a few components that are in first-class condition, the engine and chassis are shot to pieces. Where do you go from here. Does John Garfield run a Mercedes?Mark Chilton is chief executive of Purely Mortgages